The Power of Eye Contact

I don’t do well on treadmills. They turn me into a whining wimp.

I feel as if I have to work harder on them. My squatty legs turn over, at what feels like, a faster pace. However, the numbers flashing on the display tell me I’m moving at a slow speed, I have burned only a few calories and a lot of time is left in my workout.

How am I to motivate myself for such torture?

Last night, we had icy weather, so I exercised indoors. I was finishing my workout at our local YMCA, when a mother helped set her teenage son up on his machine, two treadmills down from mine. He was autistic and didn’t speak.

When she hit the start button, and the belt began to move, he squealed in delight. His laughter was contagious and I couldn’t help but laugh with him.

His mother appeared worried, as if he were disturbing me, until I told her, “I wish I could be as happy as him about being on this machine.”

We laughed together and her son leaned over and caught my eye. He cackled louder and so did I. For the next ten minutes, he’d made numerous attempts to catch my eye. Each time our eyes met, he’d laugh harder.

By this time, I’d been walking on the treadmill over an hour and my baby bladder was screaming for me to relieve it. But I couldn’t leave this boy.

He was having so much fun. He stopped his machine and I thought I was about to quit, and I could have my bathroom break. His mom said, “Are you ready to stop?” He then pointed to the machine next to me, so she swapped treadmills with him.

We continued our routine for another five minutes and then his mom told him he had to leave. I shut my machine down as well and we said our goodbyes. As I walked away he squealed once more and I turned around to look at him and he said what sounded like a “Bye!”

My heart melted.

It’s amazing the power of eye contact. He was happiest when he made eye contact with another.

So often, I’m guilty of listening to my kids or Mark while my eyes are on my phone or computer. What message am I sending them, or what love am I withholding from them, by this action?

My friend on the treadmill reminded me of the value of eye contact. We have an innate need to be seen. It’s how we connect with others.

The time spent on the treadmill, walking next to my new friend put a set of new goals inside of me.

I will work harder at being fully present.

I will look at my phone less and look around me more.

When my family, or others, speak to me, I will put down the device and look at them.

I will watch my kids’ events and not sneak out for moments to check email.

I will try to make whoever is in my presence feel as if they are the most important person to me at that moment.

I know I won’t do this perfectly, and knowing me, I’ll do it well for a week and then slowly slip back into bad habits.

But now I have a beautiful image in my mind of a boy, with a sweet heart, who wanted to be seen. He taught me a valuable lesson that I pray God will not let me forget it.