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You Feel Me
Mom with a View

You Feel Me

A moment of connection on a crowded New York street.

by

I was caught up in a crowd walking down 5th Avenue the other day. There was a Veteran's Day parade and a few blocks were closed off, making an already crowded area a lot more crowded. There was nowhere to go. You just had to move with the horde and let yourself be swept along.

Due to my height (or lack thereof!) I couldn't see where we were going or when the situation eased. I just followed the back of the person in front of me, like some sort of trust exercise.

In the midst of the din, I heard someone beside me complain that she was short and couldn't see anything. I turned to her, a young woman in her twenties, and offered words of sympathy. "You feel me," she said, smiling.

I didn't grow up in New York but my husband who did says that any kind of contact with strangers on its city streets (and particularly its subways) is unheard of, let alone a moment of real connection.

It was a moment and, not to date myself, it was real. But what really struck me were her words. "You feel me." Even if that's the latest slang, that expression is no accident.

Even though I know it was a throwaway line, even though I know she's not sitting in her apartment, home or hotel room thinking about the encounter (I know she wasn't desperate for material for an aish.com blog!) her words meant something, suggested a deep human need. "You feel me."

Last year at a parade in a different city, a parade I was actually trying to watch, I was again too short to see anything. A tall young man nearby helpfully escorted me to the front row. "Let the little grandma through," he said. That was clearly a different type of moment!

I think, I know, that the desire for human connection is deep. But for the connection to be real, to be authentic, you need understanding, you need empathy, you need to "feel" the other person.

Of course this was easy in the moment. The point of meeting – our height – was trivial, the emotional investment nil.

But in order to cultivate true relationships in our lives, meaningful marriages and friendships and connections with our children, we need to work on "feeling" them. We need to enter into their emotional lives, their highs and lows, their challenges and opportunities, their successes and failures.

This isn't easy. It requires time and effort and careful thought and attention. It requires lifting up out of our own needs and concerns, our self-obsession, our egos, to try to identify with that of another.

Sometimes it seems too hard. Sometimes our own needs seem too pressing. Sometimes the effort doesn't seem worth it.

And yet those moments of genuine human connection are what give us the strength to keep going. They give us hope. And the deeper the connection, the greater the opportunity.

As with all giving, the one who really gains is the giver not the recipient.

It was a brief moment on a crowded NY street but one I hope to "feel" the rest of my life.

November 14, 2015

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Anonymous, November 22, 2015 12:04 PM

Manhattan's the place for bus/street chat with almost anyone.

Your husband hasn't had enough experience chatting with
people on Manhattan streets and buses; otherwise, he'd realize that it's the easiest place to get friendly, kind responses. It is not customary to begin a chat or make any comment on a subway, though. If your "target" then doesn't
initiate more talk, maybe she has a good reason for not wishing to make conversation that day. Try someone else
who looks receptive.

(2) Anonymous, November 22, 2015 3:37 AM

This Is So Sad

As a proud southerner whose family has lived "down south" for 200 years, I can't imaging going through a day without smiling/speaking to nearly everyone. Please consider this comment to be an invitation to visit at your earliest convenience. Several friends, who have moved and retired to coastal NC, still express amazement at how nice everyone is. Shalom y'all; we look forward to seeing you soon!!

(1) Yoel Frid, November 19, 2015 3:37 PM

As a New Yorker, I do say greetings all the time/

I grew up in the borough of Queens and make a habit of saying Good Morning, Afternoon, etc. to people on the street. I don't neccessarily do this all the time, but i do it often. My wife calls me the "out of towner, New Yorker." This should be a habit to everyone.

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