Mexico is just beginning its quarantine as cases here thankfully lag behind other parts of the world. This past week I ran to the utility companies to pay a few months in advance before practicing stay-at-home for the safety of all. It was so funny to see Mexicans who are used to greeting each other warmly and physically, having to keep social distance. I saw more than one couple recognize each other, begin to move in for the hug and single-cheek kiss, then back off awkwardly laughing. In these times, even greeting each other has shifted for all of us.
Lately, I am finding that I am taking that extra moment at the beginning of an email, phone call, or video chat to sincerely ask how someone is. Hopefully I had been doing that regularly with friends and family, but now I am finding that I am doing it with everyone with whom I interact. And I see others doing the same. One beautiful shift as a result of this pandemic is a return to humanity, concern, and compassion.
Last fall my cousin who visits South Korean regularly, shared with me how they say hello. If you put 안녕하세요 (annyeong-haseyo) into a translator, it will translate this common South Korean greeting into “hello.” What my cousin explained to me is that the more accurate translation is, “are you at peace?” The literal translation sounds a bit like Yoda, “peace are you doing?” The common response is, “yes” or “yes, are you at peace?” Another common greeting translates to, “have you eaten?”. My cousin wondered if these phrases came about because of the hardships this community has experienced due to South Korea’s long history of war, invasion, and occupation, or perhaps they are the result of the Buddhist influence in the area.
These days I have noticed I have changed my common greeting to, “¿Cómo están tú y tu familia?” or “How are you and your family?” Before getting to business, before bringing up the reason for my call, I am checking in on that person’s mental and physical health and the well-being of their family. Seems like this should be a no-brainer and a common practice, but the fact that I notice I am doing it, means it was not a daily practice. I am also finding myself purposefully reaching out to people to remain connected and to provide support.
Unfortunately, this has made me realize the that although I have slowed down and become more considerate, being constantly and consistently focused on the well-being of those around me is still not innate or second nature for me. I am still challenged, as many of us are, to always focus on what is really important. Over the years, I have focused on titles, accomplishment, checklists, money, accumulation, and success, and each and every time I find that the connection to and health and well-being of friends and family are more important than everything else.
How is this time when most of the world is at rest, affecting what you perceive is important? How is it changing the quality of your connection and communication?