I’m up here. (The value of eye contact)

Yesterday two men from a neighbouring town and vastly different demographic approached me to ask for directions in my town. One did not look me in the eye as he spoke to me, but looked at the ground, eyes nearly closed. I know why.

I felt lower than low. Human contact is core to our species and in our culture, eye contact is core to that concept. Purposeful denial of eye contact is a way of saying “I will not acknowledge you”. I felt disrespected, and in front of my astute son who was watching, next to me.

In those scenarios, would you say something? After giving the directions? afterwards I wondered if I should have said “I’m happy to help you, but please acknowledge I am a fellow person with dignity.” I don’t know. 

When those situations come up for me, one of my first thoughts is – they would kill us both. Indiscriminately. None of this matters. Not how we look, not which mitzvot we keep, not what our best midot are. We are the same.

I just wish we were all playing on the same team. Because if it came to tragedy, we’d be forced to.


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