I see you

Wendy Neale
24.July 2021

I wonder if anyone has measured our responses to face-to-face human acknowledgement and 'likes' on social media and compared them. I imagine that the real human acknowledgement would have a longer lasting effect. I don't remember which of my social media posts got the most likes, or from whom, but I do often recall times when someone has said to me; wow what you did was amazing/you made a real difference/well done. When I'm feeling discouraged these are the memories that inspire me to carry on doing what I do.

I heard A J Jacobs speaking about his book 'Thanks a Thousand', where he took a journey to thank everybody who had helped him to have his fabulous cup of coffee. He thought it would be simpler than it was, but realised that there were so many more people and processes involved than he'd initially imagined. For instance, he thanked the person who managed the vermin control in the warehouse where the coffee beans were stored. That person had never been thanked for that before and I'm sure they will remember that for a long time.

At the moment, in New Zealand, farmers are feeling unappreciated and under pressure from new government policies. Rural areas have much higher suicide rates in New Zealand than urban areas, which probably means that lots of farmers are deeply unhappy. They took to the city streets on their tractors recently to protest and raise awareness, but some of them expressed extreme views, meaning that our ability to see them clearly was overshadowed by the controversy over those views.

Poster saying: If it wasn't for farmers you would be hungry, cold, naked and sober.

Anyway, these two things made me think about gratitude and acknowledging the work that goes into producing the life that we live. I often think about that actually.

I'm sharing these examples because they also made me wonder how many of us would be happier if someone thanked us for our work. If someone noticed our efforts. If someone actually saw us.

An electrician told me a story where he was in a hallway standing at the bottom of a ladder, about to climb it and fix something. A businessman walked into him and they all fell over. The businessman said afterwards that he didn't see him. Even though the electrician was wearing a high-vis jacket and was holding a ladder in the middle of the hallway.

I think we've trained ourselves not to see each other. And I think it's created a negative feedback loop, where we are so caught up in the sadness and pain of feeling unnoticed that we aren't able to notice anyone else.

Japan has created a new role in their government, a minister tasked to reduce loneliness. Apparently 40% of Japanese adults feel lonely. The thing I like about this initiative is that Japan hasn't tried to soften the name by calling it 'wellness' or 'wellbeing', they've called it what it is. I imagine that people who are lonely aren't up to thinking about wellness yet, they're feeling too sad. So having a Ministry focused on alleviating loneliness would be right up their alley. This is the government saying: we see you.

I hope it works. But I also hope that things like A J Jacobs book, the #whomadeyourclothes campaign, the slow food movement and other similar initiatives help us to understand how much work goes into producing our lives, and help us to see the people involved.

sign saying: who made your clothes