How a Parisian baby taught me everything I need to know about human connection.
Last August, on a sweltering day, the kind that makes your thighs stick to the subway seats, I was experiencing hanger (heat + anger) as I rode the Parisian Metro line back to Bastille.
My sister and I were on our very last leg of a whirlwind Eurotour and down to the wire with the money we’d budgeted for the trip. We thought we could scrape by and walk everywhere in the city. Accidentally assuming you could walk ANYWHERE within Paris in the matter of 30 minutes or so… not at all the case. Paris is sprawling, gorgeous, and scorching in August.
We finally admitted our naivety of Paris’ size and pitched in to buy two Metro tickets back to our youth hostel for an afternoon siesta.
Along the way, we sat silently in a car watching as the trees, buildings, and graffiti whizzed by us.
In the train car, a young mother was standing in the row behind us, holding her baby boy in her arms. She was shhhing and rocking him intermittently between the conversation she was having with a friend.
Eventually, the sounds of the car began to screech louder and the baby began to cry, as babies often do. The child was alerting us all that something was just not right in their internal world anymore. My sister and I reacted by looking at each other and then one at a time looking back to glance at the child’s face. I started to problem solve right away, thinking up scenarios for what to do if there was anything at all I could do for the child. My sister clearly was thinking, too, and immediately acted. She began to smile and make goofy faces at the child. The baby’s eyes were moving in all directions, closing and opening. After 10–20 seconds he noticed my sister.
As soon as they locked eyes, magic happened.
I watched as it unfolded, the simplest form of human connection was made, eye contact. For the next minute, my sister contorted her face into the most hilarious positions, she made peekaboo faces and rapid prototyped other movements until she achieved what she was looking for, a smile.
Magically and successfully she made the child’s scrunched crying face loosen into a face of wonder. The child was looking and wondering what this silly lady was doing with her face. And then finally, a smile broke out on the baby’s face. Success.
As I sat there in amazement, I realized what a beautiful exchange this was between two total strangers. They both received something great from it as well, my sister gave the child something to take his mind off of the horrible screeching of the train car and she in return had the satisfaction of knowing, through a simple act of kindness, that she made another person smile.
This simple, fleeting moment showed me the power of eye contact and how it can change the emotional state of both parties who lock eyes. It also showed me the power of intention.
This is how a Parisian baby taught me everything I need to know about human connection.
Ask yourself, next time you are bored or reading something on your phone and walking, what might happen if you too simply looked up and locked eyes with someone. Could you make a connection? Could you change your own physiological state?
I dare you to try.