We seem to live in a world of hyper connection, but complete separation. We know every single detail regarding people’s lives, yet at the same time we hardly ever see or connect to people in the ‘real world’. Recently I found myself at an appointment at the bank for my son’s passport. I had my baby in my hand and could feel people staring and obviously excited at the thought of a baby. Yet no one said a word. I then heard a teenage boy saying to his mum, “I wonder how old she is, she looks so incredibly tiny!”. I turned around and offered to let them look at the baby and a lovely conversation ensued and suddenly allowed for many others in the que to jump in.
A few days later, at the home affairs in Randburg, a similar situation took place. And it struck me again deeply, that we were human beings all in need of human connection yet when we are in public spaces- we all practically ignore each other. We chat with those who we know, and we shut out the rest of the world.
Look around you at a mall and notice how everyone exists without acknowledging those around them. Fear. It consumes us as South Africans. We are afraid to talk to the people around us for we all see that hijackings, murder and kidnappings are the norm. Yes, the fear is justified, yet it is slowly eroding our ability to function as human beings.
We leave our homes in search of companionship, we are lonely, yet we live in a crowded space. Our interaction has never been higher, we like and follow and send messages in split seconds – yet we have never been lonelier.
Walking into a mall I recently saw a man sitting at the Woolworths coffee shop, all alone reading his book whilst he enjoyed his coffee. I wondered why he wouldn’t read his book in the comfort of a plush sofa at home, he could kick off his shoes and relax whilst devouring his book. Now he could have come to the coffee shop for many reasons, but the desire for human connection is one that drives much of our desire to leave our home. We need people. We are in need of people. However, we cannot enjoy the true pleasure of human bonds unless we learn how to infuse our society with affection and the warmth of love and kindness.
One of the great blessings of our religion Islam is that it constantly guides us to build our society. Building each other by our acts of interconnectedness. We find that the hadith encourages us to meet our fellow brothers with a smiling countenance – this is regarded as an act of kindness. Greetings, smiling and kindness seem to be such insignificant acts – yet as we live within a society of hate crimes and cold blooded killing- we have to begin at some point. As the Prophet (s) so many years ago had to slowly teach a society to stop killing their little girls, to stop fighting and hurting- so too do we need to begin. To begin at grassroot level to rebuild the fabric of our society with a deep kindness and empathy. To combat the loneliness of a disenfranchised world – must build connections in the everyday. The real connection of a smile, the real connection of a kind word.