Just visiting

I don’t know about you, but while we’ve been ‘locked down’ over the past few months, I’ve made much more of an effort to catch up with people I know, whether they’re family members, friends, work clients or casual acquaintances. Not in person, of course (I’m not a monster), but with a mixture of phone, email and video calls.

And by ‘catch up’, I don’t mean the simple transaction of whatever business needs to be transacted, like agreeing on birthday presents for nephews or negotiating deadlines for new projects. I mean taking the time to just chat with people about what they’ve been up to, what they’re worrying about and what’s new in their lives.

Indeed, the best catch-ups, I’ve found, are those that aren’t a precursor to something else. They’re simply an informal chat between human beings, sitting at home wondering what the hell’s going on.

I’ve read a couple of books recently by Michael Perry, the American author and humourist, and I’ve noticed that he – and presumably other Americans, too – talk a lot about ‘visiting’ with people. Not visiting ‘someone’, but visiting ‘with someone’. As in ‘I visited with my friend Bill this afternoon’.

It means, I gather, to pay a social call with the intention of catching up. But in Perry’s writing, it’s not necessarily about going to someone’s house or place of work. One can visit with someone wherever you and they happen to be. On their front lawn, out on a walk or – as in one of my favourites of his stories – during a short halt while driving past each other on the road.

This notion of visiting with someone is a concept that I – and, I suspect, others – would do well to espouse. Not every interaction with someone has to be about something specific. Sometimes it can just be about things in general. Taking advantage, perhaps, of a chance encounter to share our lives for a moment, however fleeting.

Of course, in these odd times we might need to go to a bit more of an effort to bring about such encounters. But it’s at times like these that a bit of visiting is perhaps more important than ever. A time for us to share our common humanity. To celebrate the daily ups and downs of life. To be there, without motive or condition, for those we know and love.

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