A person is a person through other persons.
None of us comes into the world fully formed. We would not know how to think, or walk, or speak, or behave as human beings unless we learned it from other human beings. We need other human beings in order to be human. I am because other people are.
–Bishop Desmond Tutu
I’m on the bus, on my way to Epsom with the family. I’m on the top deck, seated alone. My wife and daughter are downstairs.
The bus winds its way through some of Surrey’s leafiest suburbs. I take it all in. I am lost in thought. Suddenly, I notice something. It’s the figure of a person running. I take a closer look and realise that it is a middle-aged lady and she’s running to the bus stop ahead. She’s trying to catch this bus. Secretly, in my mind, I will her on. I know what it’s like to miss a bus and then having to wait for another. I want her to make it. I hope she makes it. I hope the driver waits for her.
The bus stops. Passengers get off. I steel myself for the inevitable–the bus will pull out before she gets to it. It’s understandable in a way. The drivers have their schedules to keep to. They can’t wait even if they want to. But surprisingly, the driver waits. The lady finally arrives. She gets on and we start back on our way. Yes!! I thank the bus driver in my mind. I know how the lady feels. I celebrate silently with her.
The bus snakes its way through the narrow streets and I drift back into my dream world. I start to think about people. All of a sudden a thousand ideas hurl themselves at me. So many thoughts, insights and realisations–all to do with people.
I think back to the lady running for the bus. I think of the bus driver and about how he waited. He cared. I cared. That’s because we are people. It’s in our nature to care.
The houses, flats and apartments we pass now become ‘homes’. The high streets and the towns become ‘communities’. Why? Because of people–because it’s where people live, work and play.
I realise that this world would be such a barren and desolate place without people. Life would be almost meaningless.
Every product or service I have ever used; every book I have treasured; every painting I have admired; every song I have ever loved: all made and made possible by people. Every time I have been helped and cared for: it has been by people. But most importantly, near enough every time my heart has sung with love and appreciation, it has been because of people (okay there were some pets involved too).
So what makes people, ‘people’? I think it’s caring. If we care for others or if others care for us, (or both ideally), then we’re people. When we stop caring, we become robots and people lookalikes. I think that’s what makes the difference.
The good news is that we are hard-wired to care. We have all sorts of inbuilt mechanisms like empathy and ‘mirror neurons‘ which make us all ‘people persons’ straight out of the box. But we can sometimes forget. We can lose our way.
When I started out with blogging and writing, my aim was to share honestly and openly from the heart–to be an authentic person who cared–and to somehow serve my readers. If I’m being honest, I have to say that I had begun to lose sight of all this in recent times. At least just a little. Lately, I was all up in my head and concerned about statistics and rankings and the like. People and service had slipped from being the number one concern, albeit briefly. I know that none of that really means anything to me in the end. And no prize or accolade could ever make up for the lack of meaning, because fulfillment demands meaning and fulfillment is the grand prize that you and I live for.
People bring meaning to everything. People are the context in which everything I truly desire takes place. Looking ahead, even getting to the top of the New York Times bestseller list would be a hollow victory if I no longer had the close connection with the people who rooted for me all along the way; to share it with. So I am very thankful to the kindly bus driver and to that lady for reminding me what it means to be a person.
Please feel free to remind me, if you ever feel I’ve forgotten.