Last week we had an unusually warm winter day and I decided to go out and enjoy the lunch hour at a favorite local restaurant. As I walked toward the door, I was reminded of the power our senses have over our experiences. Smells of spices wafted through the air and made my stomach gurgle long before I crossed the threshold. I was ushered to a table by the head of the family that has owned the place for generations. It all felt welcoming and warm…until new guests arrived at the next table.
The new guests were a well-dressed mother and daughter, the child was about 9 years old, and clearly looked happy to be at the restaurant. As they sat down and were handed the menus, the girl started chatting about her choices for lunch while the parent immediately pulled out her phone and began to text. At some point, the girl stopped talking and reached in her backpack for her own phone. They never put them down again until the food arrived, and even then, would occasionally pick them up between bites.
This is not an unusual situation these days, but it left me feeling sad. The connection that could have been made that day was lost and the modeled behavior gave preference to texts over family. Texts do not substitute for human connection. Communication is multi-faceted, and mere letters on a screen do not convey warmth, sorrow, joy, the pure connection felt from a human being’s presence. The art of conversation is not a ‘nice to have’, it is critically important to our growth as human beings.