Today I attended a hospital orientation in advance preparation for doing some pet therapy with my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Towards the end of the two hours, I noticed the presenter was wearing a round pin with the numbers 10/5. Fortunately, I didn’t even have to inquire about the significance of the numbers. The presenter explained that the whole hospital had embarked on a 10/5 campaign. What this means is two actions are to be performed every time you encounter someone. If you are 10 feet from that person, you are to smile at them. If you are five feet away, you are to say some cordial greeting (“Hello,” “Hi,” “Good morning,” etc.). This was of course only intended for the hospital employees, to show more compassion and create a warmer atmosphere within an environment that can seem cold, clinical, and impersonal.
What a wonderful idea! As Khalil Gibran said in his book The Prophet, “You give little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. It is well to give unasked, through understanding.” But how, exactly, do we “give unasked, through understanding”?
Showing that you recognize another as a person who may or may not be having struggles of their own is truly a sign of compassion. Showing kindness and respect for their existence is a valuable step to take. Being able to notice others around you makes your world seem larger. The message you deliver is, “You are important to me. You matter. I notice your presence and invite you into my world, even for a brief moment.” Exchanging a smile or genuine greeting or gesture can help another person feel that they matter. Homeless people often comment that the hardest part of being on the edge of society is the fact that no one meets their gaze or acknowledges them. We should all endeavour to never stray too far from the connectivity and relatedness that make us human.
How many times do we greet the important people in our lives? How present and attentive are we when communicating with them? Is that simply because we hope to get something from them? Of course not! But every now and then, take stock of your own motivations. Do you care enough to get to know your significant other even better, respect them, and care about them? How about the people you pass in hallways and on the street? Are they simply objects to you, or are they your companions through the challenging journey of life?
How often do you plan ways to delight your loved ones and go the extra mile for them? I am not assuming you don’t already do these things. I just wonder if we couldn’t do more. It seems so easy and so meaningful, “recognition with compassion”, a gateway to increasing the complexity and depth of our bond with one another.
Starting today, consciously make an effort to acknowledge others, whether friends or strangers and see how this simple gesture changes your connection with them and possibly improves their day.