There’s a man eating a pasty, maybe fifteen feet from me.
I can smell it. A slightly sweet aroma. I can feel the sensations of a bite of the piping hot food in my mouth. I can sense my slight open mouthed panting, as air is used to cool that bite to a temperature for swallow. I can taste the meaty, gooey mouthful, mixed with crumbly buttery pastry. I can taste the slightly peppery warmth.
There’s something strangely primal about holding your food in your hand.
I am instantly transported to my own specific memories of enjoying a pasty. Walking in the street with my family, grabbing lunch on a shopping trip. Numerous glorious holidays in Cornwall. A rushed snack on the way home from somewhere, late. In each memory, the smell of this man’s pasty takes me there. Fully.
Where does a smell take you and how vibrant is that place?
I’m off for a pasty…
I can feel the steering wheel in my hands. The gloves on my fingers. My skin when I scratch an itch. I can feel my hair through my fingers. My feet on the ground. Sand between my toes. Rain on my face. Sunshine. I can feel my thighs on the chair seat. My arms when they’re folded. I can feel the bag on my shoulder. My knee when it aches. I can even describe the feeling when my toes are so cold I can’t feel them. I can hold something in my hands, blindfold, and probably tell what it is. Its size, shape, texture, hardness, weight…
We are used to feeling. On the outside.
But feelings on the inside are harder. We have less language. Less awareness. Less dexterity in our explanation.
We say things like I’m nervous or I feel good, I feel sick in my stomach or I’m just not feeling too well. I’m happy or I’m anxious or upset. Describing where in our bodies we feel that, and precisely what the sensation is; how the feeling is moving, its temperature, its intensity. This seems harder.
Strange that what our own bodies tell us is more elusive to us than our contact with the external world?
image by: Andreas Roseneder
We can now pay for our goods without any actual contact. Payments are made by wafting a piece of plastic, or a mobile phone, next to a reader and money is debited from your account. Not only does the card not have to touch the reader, this is contactless from a human perspective too. No pin keyed in. No signature. You don’t even have to hold the card.
You possibly also enter buildings, maybe at work or at home through a contactless fob waved adjacent to an access pad. Doors open automatically. No human pushing or pulling required.
Driverless cars are now being developed. No human steering, accelerating, braking.
Technologically speaking, it is as if our human contact with the world is being removed, bit by bit.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that the same can be true when we interact with each other. Often without physical or verbal contact we have an impact nonetheless.
Just being near someone can touch their lives.
But not without impact.
As you move through the world you will have touched people. Some you will know. Family. Friends. Colleagues. Loved ones.
These people will recall you. They will feel connected. Your life and theirs inextricably linked through a bond. Maybe the bond is tangible, physical. Maybe it is emotional. Maybe it is transparent, maybe it is just there in the system, felt in the ether.
Others you have touched, you may not even realise it to be so.
In the midst of your own hectic, muddled life, you may have inadvertently dropped little traces of you on your journey. Like a dusting of you, cascading in your wake. Equally you may have deliberately acted, not seeking gain, not cognisant perhaps of the lasting impact or significant consequences that result for that person, or those close to them. You may have done this through…
An impromptu smile
A comforting word
A timely glance
A small act of kindness
Listening when someone needed to be heard
Witnessing someone’s truth
A small but critical thank you
A heartfelt hug
A positive thought
With fairy-like footprints, we invisibly stand in people’s lives, often unaware of those we have touched.
But they remember. They know. They thank you.