Whenever I travel to larger U.S or European cities, I am struck by how various aspects of the culture reinforce a sense of community. The place where I feel this most is on the train or subway. Here, you find yourself among a wide variety of people, some speaking different languages. There are children, groups of obnoxious teenagers, business commuters, and elders. Everyone travels together. There isn’t much conversation, but even a few simple greetings or pleasantries are enough to remind you that you are a part of a larger experience. Yes, you are a part of the hustle and bustle of the day, but also connected to a larger community of others that even unknowingly, acknowledge your presence simply by being near. Acknowledgment is also demonstrated by eye-contact and some subtle physical contact such as an arm grazing yours or a palm upon your back as an effort to help you move along during boarding. When the train stops a bit too abruptly, a man reaches out to help steady your fall. This physical sense of togetherness is something we all crave, if we are honest with ourselves. It’s easy to feel invisible, especially as our culture “advances” to become more individualistic and electronically distracted.
Being in public places that subtly render physical or mental interaction remind us of our inherent worth. We don’t need to try too hard or feel like this experience is being forced upon us. Connection is already happening whether we exert the effort or not. We are a part of something much larger than ourselves and now more than ever, this is a warming thought.