Sleepwalkers


I see them. Almost every day on my commute I see them. Sleepwalkers.
No, they don’t drip venom from the side of their mouths and no they don’t walk like zombies. They’re in their suits and dresses…scurrying off to some job or venture. In a hurry…but asleep…and still cause death.

How do they kill? They don’t appear at night and suck your blood. They don’t jump out of the closet to bite your arm off.
It’s much simpler.
They simply create an environment where you are surrounded by a lot of people and yet feel unseen.

They make people feel unseen. They walk around like zombies. Alive but dead.
Surrounded by people they can see, but so disconnected they can’t see the human in front of them.

Sometimes it takes the shock of the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain in the same week to wake us all up to the fact that there are deeply sad people all around us who may seem to have it together but aren’t coping well. They are dying inside and look great doing it. Worse still, we can’t see them because we are not even looking. We are existing but we are not present.

The more I thought about all this and how it is affecting my immediate community, I realized a few things:

1) People are not making meaningful connections with other people:
I live, work and commute in New York/New Jersey area and I can tell you…there are millions of people here and yet people barely see each other. It is possible to sit next to someone on a train or bus for an hour and not as much as “Hello” happens between them.
No one is really alone in a place like this but very many are very lonely. It’s crazy to me. You would think there are so many opportunities to make friends and make connections but its almost as if the more people there are in a place, the less connected they are….the more distant everyone looks and feels.

2)That connection that I just spoke about, is very hard.
I’ll be the first to admit it. Trying to step out and overcome the awkward silence …and reach out to “touch” someone…or “see” someone, is hard. Overcoming that wall to ask someone how they are doing when they obviously look down, is hard. NO one wants to feel like a bother. Its hard to break through.

Here’s one reason why (and it might make you sick to your stomach):

We all have the voice in our heads that says

“This person is perfectly fine and even content without you, and interacting with you,
might actually interrupt that joy”.

That doesn’t sound so bad right? Wait….let me flip it on its head.

What you are actually telling yourself deep down. What quite literally the devil is trying to embed in your mind is that:

“You are not able to add any human value to people around you. (Keyword – Human). There is nothing you can do (smile/say hello/open a door/ask how they are and actually be interested) to add any unit of joy, connection, and positivity to people around you”

See it clearer now?

If we are convinced of our capacity to make a positive human difference in the world around us, and interested in the impact of doing so, you and I would be reaching out and touching more people. We would be more “present”…more “awake”.

When we don’t reach out and make connections, we say that other people (and their unapproachability) are the reason (excuse) but:

The truth is that we don’t reach out to connect with other people and we hold back because we ourselves are suffering and dying on the inside.

3) I refuse to believe that. So here is what I have started to do and here are the results so far:
I decided to be more present and more aware as I travel through life and community every day. I make the effort to SEE people…and (when I am not too wound up in my own head) smile…say a kind word….give a compliment.

Since then, I have noticed at least 9 people along my daily commute that I cross almost EVERYDAY like clockwork in the same place at the same time going in 6 separate directions. I even have nicknames for them now (lol) “There’s Spike, Jimmy, GQ, Colorful hat, Sister-Sister, Obama, Jack Ryan, Nurse Betty, Pablo and Cool as ice.

This stuff is nuts. I cross “Pablo” every morning…almost without fail at the same corner of the same building fro about 20 seconds..going opposite directions.

Almost everyday, I cross the same corridor and staircase as “Nurse Betty”. This is all of 15 seconds.

I have actually made a connection with Jimmy and GQ. In fact, One day, I just walked up to GQ, gave him a compliment, and asked if he minded if I joined him on the seat. He said no and we ended up talking for over 30min. Amazing human being.

Just yesterday, I happen to be at another train station and guess who stands next to me!! Its “Cool as ice!”. How amazing is that! I have had this post in draft for a few days now and to have written about him and the next day I run into him in an unexpected place. Whats even more amazing? I actually engaged. I opened my mouth, stretched out my hand to shake his and connected.

I Told him I see him at the other station and that I love his swag. Here is the truth about him. I call him cool as ice because on one side, he has so much swag for 6: 30 am …but for the weeks I had been seeing him, I have never seen him as much as crack a smile. But when (as a stranger,) I reached out and complimented him on that swag yesterday, you should have seen how his face lit up. I almost didn’t recognize him. He had the biggest smile. It was like he couldn’t believe I was talking about him. Amazing.

Isn’t God wonderful? The way he puts us in peoples’ paths and gives us the ability to make other people feel good…warm and fuzzy inside…and gives them the ability to return the favor.

I wonder who is on YOUR way. Who do you pass every day as you go to school or work or run your errands? I wonder who would benefit from your human touch tomorrow if you just looked up from your phone, and reached out with your human soul to touch another…to make another feel seen. I wonder.

I wonder how the world would be a little different if we all just stopped sleepwalking.

So wake up..look up and touch someone. See someone. Say something good to someone.

I suspect the world will get just a little better when you do.

So…what do you think of all this? What is your experience like as you move through life? What do you feel inspired to do?

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  • JustDebbieU

    Those deaths were very sobering. This is a great perspective!! I think for me it’s also about being present to those closest to you. The true question is am I too busy or self consumed to really care for my family and friends even if it may be about things that seems irrelevant. Can they trust me with the irrelevant issues before they give me the heavier issues? For some ppl(AKA ME!) it’s easy to make connections with others but the work to deepen their current relationships is very ……uncomfortable. #inconvenientlyinspired lol

    • You packed it all here “The work to deepen their relationship”. That’s where its all at. Thats it right there!

  • Kevin Soderland

    Thank you for this reminder, Tobi. It was well timed. May Jesus draw you closer to Himself and others, brother.

  • Beatrice Maviti

    Very insightful post. I have been a very ‘keep to myself’ kind of person for a long time. But gradually im reaching out to touch others. It makes all the difference in the world. Thanks Doc for sharing your thoughts. Shine on !

    • Hi Beatrice!
      I’m glad it was meaningful for you. Trust me youre going to find a whole new world out there when you start coming out of your comfort zone for the sake of love. God bless

  • Hey Gbemi!
    Thank you so much for sharing a piece of your mind with the world through this post. God bless you!