Tinted Windows

car-2797169_640Tuesday morning I found myself at a red light, positioned behind an ambulance. The window of the rear door was tinted; but sunlight streaming through a side window lit up the interior, rendering the tint ineffective. For the duration of the traffic signal’s cycle, I had a front-row seat to the drama unfolding inside.

A lady sat in the back of the ambulance, facing me. She was dressed in civilian clothes and talking to someone else (a first responder I presume) positioned with his back to me. She was sobbing, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Obviously, I couldn’t hear the conversation. But the setting and visual clues made it clear that she was in distress and the EMT was consoling her. Lights and siren hadn’t been turned on, so it would seem this wasn’t a life or death situation. I don’t even know that she was a patient – she was sitting upright, after all, and didn’t seem to be receiving direct medical care. Nevertheless, something significant had taken place and she was struggling with the result.

Every day, people move into our lives – sometimes for just a few moments. Every single one of them carries the weight of unseen burdens. It’s as if we see them through tinted windows. We might get a peek, but rarely do we grasp the totality of what they are wrestling with. We can’t possibly understand the circumstances that cause people to be where they are at any given moment. We can’t grasp the reasons for the decisions they make. It’s hard to actually see them at all really.

But occasionally, if we stand still, and the light is just right, we catch a glimpse. It’s in these moments when we see people for what they are – not account numbers or transactions to be completed, but as fellow human beings. It’s in these moments that we can truly be of service to them. It’s in these moments that we can make a real difference.

A welcoming smile. A kind word. An offer of assistance that reaches beyond the scope of our job description. These are the actions that transcend the job and add meaning to the moment.

We live in a world of connected loneliness. Never have we enjoyed the ability to share experiences and information with so many people so easily. Yet, never have we been so isolated. Hidden behind screens and avatars and user names are people – people yearning for connection.

The real business challenge we face is connecting. The easier we make it to get things done, through automation and self-help, the harder it becomes to bridge the gaps between us. And the more important it becomes to build those bridges.

Granted, it is safer to remain distant. My own life is messy enough; why should I take on someone else’s baggage? Why should I risk getting involved when I don’t have to? What’s to be gained?

Let’s be the kind of organization that builds bridges. Let’s be the kind of people that value relationships over transactions. Let’s be the ones who really connect. Let’s take the risk.

My light eventually turned green. Traffic starting flowing again. Before the ambulance pulled away, I saw the faceless passenger reach out and squeeze the crying lady’s hand. Then, just as the shifting light once again hid her tear-stained face, I believe I saw her smile.