I watched the man shuffle through Penn Station in New York City. He had an old jacket with the lining torn out, and shoes with no laces and rips down the side.
He slid his feet in small increments, probably in pain from the lack of any support. He got closer to me, and I began to seriously study the floor. I waited until he passed by before I looked up. I don’t know if he looked at me or not, but I certainly didn’t look at him.
Once he disappeared into the crowd, I began to feel horrible. I remember my dad telling me that when he was in a wheelchair due to his cancer, the worst part was that people wouldn’t look at him. He felt invisible.
I took off through the train station trying to find the man who shuffled by. I wanted to make eye contact and try to smile. Maybe he wouldn’t notice me; maybe he would be afraid; maybe he would lash out. I couldn’t predict his response, but I knew that I wanted to at least acknowledge his existence.
I thought that since he moved slowly I could find him in the crowd, but I couldn’t. He was gone. Maybe he was a spiritual test, and I failed. I’ll never know, but I know that it will always be one of my regrets.
Today, find a colleague or employee that sits quietly and rarely interacts with others. Let them know that you know they exist. Why? Because this is a world of dominoes, where every player matters. They matter even if they’re only here for a small time, or live on the streets, or work in a cubicle.
They are connected to each one of us, and when we fail to see them we let the world down. Just a little.
Remember that there are small behaviors, but no small people. We aren’t in charge of another person’s significance. However, we are in charge of our actions.
Pay attention today. Do something small. It could make a big difference.
This begins my series of stories on “Real People.” If you’d like to read my book of corporate stories – an approach to change management that focuses on behaviors and people, it is available at Amazon and is formatted for Kindle: