“It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.” from the opening scene of the movie Crash.
Something I didn’t think I would be able to say at my age is that I have had the privilege of living in two different countries, in two different hemispheres and in both a hot-climate and a cold-climate culture. If you haven’t, I highly recommend that you read up on the difference between hot-climate verses cold-climate cultures. Researching this really opened my eyes and has helped me understand those around me.
It is only after living away for so many years that I have realised that England, my home country, has a cold-climate culture. London, my home town, is colder still. Logic, independence and fact are King. I never really noticed this until I moved away.
There are lots of things about living in a hot-climate culture that grate on me, but one of the things I love is that people collide. They are feelers, and so they collide with each others personal space and scratch the surface of the human mask.
Being back in London I am astounded at how the British reserve has the ability to very quickly trap people in a cocoon of isolation and silence.
In our culture of political correct hyperactivity increases the fear of personal collision and in doing so widens the gap of personal isolation. People do not greet one another in the street, people do not stop to help for fear of being misread or abused.
And then every now and again events happen where we are forced or perhaps overwhelmingly compelled to forget the nonsense culture we have become slaves to and roots of community, servanthood and compassion burst out.
For example, in London, all it takes is a Transport for London crisis, or a snow day, or a holiday such as Christmas and suddenly the iron wall is broken down.
We had to pull over recently to deal with our car-sick child. So, we stopped in a sleepy english cul-de-sac and went to work with our wetwipes. When the Lady of the adjacent house came out and asked “Excuse me, may I help you?” my heart sank and I assumed that we were about to get dressed down for stopping in front of this woman’s house and making an unpleasant scene. But instead she followed with “I can see your son is unwell, is there anything I can do to help? Would you like to come in and use a bathroom? Or can I bring you some towels and hot soapy water?”
Here in the middle of this posh English crescent my day was made all the better because of one thing - kindness and personal interaction.
Don’t you ever get that thought when you are on the tube or in line for the grocery checkout that “We are all people, we are all the same. Why is it so hard to just talk and be friendly?!
The Word says “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”
One of the things that has always surprised me in cold climate places like London and New York is how slow people are to extend public kindness and generosity and yet how quick they are to outwardly demonstrate annoyance and disdain.
Sadly this reveals what is uppermost in their heart. And this is the real trap and travesty of not engaging in meaningful relationships where our hearts and attitudes can be heard but also challenged. Rather than living an unaccountable existence where you are “sharing” online or exploding on others in public but at no true risk to yourself or your personal space.
I am sure that many of these outbursts come from our need for human interaction and intimate relationship. But because this is becoming such a rare thing, our attempt at collision takes the form of oversharing, lashing out and unharnessed honesty - all of which scream "Please know and understand me!"
I am challenged with this as I reflect over these things - look at what is coming out of your mouth and take responsibility for what it is revealing about your heart. And be brave and risk embracing the humanity around you. Something wonderful might just happen.