In Haiti, everyone greeted everyone. Throughout the day, people walked from house to house, chatting about everything and nothing, keeping connected.

Two weeks later, I’m taking the T home from Boston airport, sitting in a metal subway car filled with more people than lived in that whole Haitian village. No one talks to each other. No one looks up. No connection.

When I’m with Isabel, my four year old daughter, I’m often talking to people on the subway. She’s a great icebreaker with her antics. I’m usually saying funny things to her, which make the people around smile and pretty much every trip we’ve got at least three or four adults enjoying themselves. Isabel’s our way to be real with each other. She’s real, so we’re allowed to be real too.

So why aren’t we to begin with? Why wasn’t I chatting up a storm on that train ride home from the airport, talking to strangers about my experiences, listening to their day, telling jokes and smiling? Why instead do people find connection through Facebook and Twitter and text messaging, without seeing each other?

A simple answer is that it’s easier to ignore people through a computer. Someone speaks to you on the subway and you’re pretty much obligated to interact with the person, if only to shrug them off and reinforce your bubble.

Yesterday I was at Starbucks to get some WiFi and ran into a friend. He got some coffee and sat at a table near me. After a bit I asked if I could join him, hoping to talk about some of the things on my mind. Instead, an elderly woman joined our table. They were meeting for coffee. Would I join them?

Well, this wasn’t what I had in mind. After all, I was busy. Talking alone with my friend might have helped. Small talk with a stranger, not so much. I agreed and sat down (how could I not?). Sipping my coffee, I listened as my friend and the woman talked about the Regis show and her nephew. “We meet every day to solve the problems of the world,” said my friend. His manner with her was completely open and welcoming. She was clearly thankful for our conversation. After a while, I had completely forgotten about the things I wanted to talk to my friend about and was simply enjoying their company. Connection.

Realness isn’t so much about what’s said, but why. If my intent is to push the thoughts in my brain into your brain, without regard to what’s there already, then I’m not being real with you. If instead I’m looking for connection, if I see where you’re at first, if I have patience, then we’ve got a chance for realness, even if it’s Regis we’re talking about. Connection’s about connecting with who we are, offering up thoughts in a shared context developed through conversation.

Before dumping your thoughts into another brain, check with the owner first. Leaving a bunch of boxes in their mental foyer is not only rude, it’s pointless.

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