The vast majority of the people with whom we interact on a daily basis are people we don’t know. And we’ll probably never have a personal relationship with them. Like cashiers, customer service people, bus drivers, pedestrians on the street, etc.

This short clip on YouTube came to my attention recently. I found it an interesting commentary on the way we habitually interact with other people in the course of our daily lives. Sadly, 75% of people in this experiment didn’t notice when the person with whom they were talking was replaced by someone completely different in the middle of a conversation!

It’s easy to see how this happens. We get so narrowly focused on our task at hand, we don’t pay attention to much else. As this clip points out, our brains need to do this in order to avoid the sensory overload of stimuli we have coming at us on a constant basis. But at what cost? We begin to treat fellow human beings as mere vending machines and interchangeable objects. And that contributes to the kind of atmosphere we collectively create in our society today.

So when we’re out in the world, I’d like to encourage us to pay more attention to the people around us. Especially those with whom we have some interaction, no matter how small. How much effort is it to smile at a cashier when she hands us our change?

And if you are a meditator, I would urge you to do the Metta Bhavana practice – the development of loving kindness. It’s the third stage in particular that helps us to see those people we don’t know (i.e. the “Neutral Person”) in a more kind way, and as more complete human beings.

People are not vending machines. Let’s aim to stop treating them that way!