By Jody J. Ballard

I love artichokes. I love the taste, texture, color, and even the prickly manner in which they protect themselves. I love it all, but not because the aggressive pinprick at the end of each leaf has never injured me. In my family, it was not considered a food, but truth be told, I don’t think my parents could have picked it out and named it in a grocery store. What I DO love it that eating an artichoke takes time, effort, and awareness of the nature of the artichoke.

Artichokes are intriguing. They are herbaceous plants when eaten with the main course and otherwise considered a flower in the daisy family. I find this curious because it is our relationship to it that determines if this petulant globe is classified as a flower or a vegetable. We have to take the time to know it well and its benefit to us. NOW you might be thinking this is too much to do about nothing, and maybe it is. But let me offer a thought for contemplation.

What if we approached each person we met NOT as someone predetermined by how they look on the outside, the roughness of their actions, their peculiar ways? What if we did not attach to people because  they did not speak our language, shared our way of thinking, liked what we liked, dressed like us, ate the same foods…you get the idea…

BUT what if we approached other people as:

  • human beings searching for connection,
  • sometimes perfect but most of the time beautifully imperfect,
  • kind, and worthy of respect
  • different in potentially exciting ways.

If these were the first thoughts when greeting a cashier, sitting next to an airline companion, following a slow driver in heavy traffic, a coworker, or your most beloved children and mate, I think it might change the quality of these encounters. People FEEL at a gut level another’s intentions, fears, reluctance to engage, or closed stance.

We have not evolved far from the time when our primal brain (the part of our brain responsible for survival, drive, and instinct) informed us when people and situations were safe. In the world today, we take in a lot of information, and I believe we can no longer appropriately synthesize all the data, images, sounds, sights hurled at us. The result is we no longer trust these ‘gut feelings’.

However, when we sit still and ask ourselves what we really WANT and what we really NEED in our lives, I would venture a guess that CONNECTION is right up there on the list.

Our ability to CONNECT begins with us and our attitude toward people in general. We do respond to others via a mirroring effect if we take the time. Kindness is met with kindness, respect with respect.

WHAT IF we led with an open heart, respect, and kindness? I believe the prickly side of people would soften, and they would allow us to look a little deeper and see a tender center at their heart What If………….?????