Earlier this week I was struck by the weight and value of “face time”. No, I do not mean iPhone facetime. I mean genuine, honest, human connection. In a world where we can become slaves to the last email received, our latest @mention, and group texts, it is easy to have the worth of face-to-face interaction swept away by the digital highway.
Recently I have been trying to connect with an 18-year-old clerk working in the slum school where I have been placed. My goal is for her to trust me and to have an open dialogue in order to gain a better understanding of how administration and finances operate and flow in the school. Tuesday I was rushing out of the office to go do some thing on my computer when she called after me. I turned around and all she said was “Help?” and indicated a large stack of circulars that needed to be cut and distributed to all of the teachers by the days end. I sat down in an unsteady chair next to her tiny desk, and she handed me a pair of rusty scissors. Learning when to be quiet, to me, is the most crucial aspect of face time. I could have blabbed and asked her questions during this time, trying to pull out information I needed. But something told me to keep quiet, sit, and work alongside her, methodically cutting 8 x 11 pieces of paper into halves. I sat in my daily uniform of kurta and jeans while she sat in her burka, and together we made it through the massive stack of papers. I SHUT UP and was present. 20 minutes later the papers were cut and we each moved on with our individual days.
Thursday, as I was waiting on a teacher to give me a ride on her motorbike to the bus stop, the principal approached me. He said the young clerk had told him how appreciative she was that I took the time to simply sit with her and help. She had told him that she would cooperate with me in any way necessary that would help my projects in the school. This is the manifestation of the beginning of a rapport.
Over the next few days this seemingly trivial task kept replaying over and over in my mind. It has made me stop and measure the power of human proximity when paired with a common goal. If you know me you will understand how much sitting, stopping, and just “being” is a personal challenge. I think we so often have these opportunities to be present, to slow down long enough to engage in face time, yet we pass them by.
It’s easier, and supposedly more efficient, to send a text, an email, enter data in a spreadsheet, or even have a Skype conference call. These mediums are valuable in their own right and certainly play a large role in our connections to people and new ideas. However, I feel like face time removes the mediums (the middle man so to speak) through which we generally communicate, and allows for direct connections to creative thinking we all hope evolve into innovative solutions for change. Intentionally seeking out avenues through which we can utilize the element of face time is essential to locating new ways of approaching valuable information.
How have you used face time recently to connect and generate new ideas within your own social space?