“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”
― Jalal al-Din Rumi, Sufi mystic and poet
In Miami for spring break, I have had some marvelous social interactions, from the stranger who gave me a drive home from the grocery store (saving me a mile-long walk), to the 70-year-old Sufi guru who read my enneagram, to the awesome guy who let me use the neighborhood LA Fitness’s facilities for free (sauna, indoor pool, and hot tub? yes please), to the half dozen people who have approached me and spontaneously complimented my smile.
People in Miami are so much nicer than back home in D.C.!, I kept thinking.
Now that I am about to leave, I realize it’s not the city that is different. It’s me. Back home in Washington, D.C., I would have been too self-absorbed to notice the shopper who left behind a bag of groceries, and I would not have been able to chase after and return it to her, which prompted her to offer me a ride. In D.C., I would have been too rushed to stop and talk for 40 minutes with an interesting lady who also happened to be a life-long follower of Jalal al-Din Rumi. In D.C.–at least lately–I would have no patience to go somewhere new and unfamiliar like a clothing-optional beach, where regulars approached me to share their insights, local knowledge, and personal narratives. In D.C., I assume that I know everything worth knowing about my environment and have, lately, become indifferent to other perspectives or the help of others. In a new city, like Miami, I have no preconceived notions and must look to others to learn about what is worth doing, going to, and seeing.
This trip has reminded me that for making human connections, it’s not the place that matters–it’s your attitude. Anxiety and aloofness communicate that you want to keep people at a distance, so people respond in kind. But when you are inquisitive, candid, patient, and humble, people will sense that and be drawn to you, whether you are in Washington or Miami or anywhere else.
Don’t look for change outside when the real change comes from inside.