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Living the Vintage Years: Let’s get more connected in the new year

“May I help you?” I miss hearing those words when I am out and about.

Increasingly, we are becoming a society of do-it-yourselfers, and finding an establishment where employees actually wait on us is getting to be pretty rare.

Think about it. We pump our own gas - at least here in Pennsylvania, we do.

We also have to put quarters in a machine to put air in the tires of our vehicles, something I have not yet mastered.

People go to automatic teller machines to get money, instead of walking into a bank and talking to a human teller.

Many folks now check out their own groceries. In fact, some stores have only one or two lanes open with human clerks, probably assuming most shoppers prefer the self-checkout option.

Shoe stores and clothing stores rarely have sales people available to help. For years, I had gotten used to responding, “No thanks, I’m just looking,” when employees would offer their assistance. There’s hardly a need for those words anymore.

Now the situation is exactly the opposite. I often have to chase down a worker when I have a question about merchandise, and many times, the employee does not know the answer.

Some friends have stopped shopping in stores and now buy almost everything online. That does not appeal to me. I like to see and feel an item before I open my wallet. And if I am buying clothing for myself, I definitely want to try the items on first.

A lot of folks who do order online often end up returning or exchanging their purchases after they see what they bought. I don’t need that hassle.

Has our society traded connection for convenience?

A basic human need is our connection with others. We are socially wired that way. As we lose that connection, people can forget how to interact civilly with others. Even in their personal relationships, some folks have replaced in-person visits and telephone calls with emails and text messages. This impersonal contact usually does not fill the need we have to connect with fellow humans.

I’m sure some people would call me a relic, but I still prefer to hear a voice than read a typed message on my phone, and a handwritten card or letter always is an immediate spirit booster.

Some students take all their courses online and rarely, if ever, step into a classroom or interact in person with classmates or the professor.

Some people worship exclusively online from their homes and never associate in person with the pastor or other worshippers.

Other folks work from home without interacting personally with their co-workers, if they even know them.

There seems to be a link between this human disconnect and the high number of people today who report feeling lonely and isolated. They are missing shared experiences. We are a social species with a universal need for human connection, and interacting with machines and gadgets does not fill that need.

According to scientific studies, our health and well-being are greatly and measurably improved when we connect more with other folks. That’s not hard to do.

Perhaps we can make a New Year’s resolution to walk into a bank once in a while or occasionally skip the self-checkout line at the supermarket. The little pleasantries we exchange with the employees might brighten our day or lift our spirits, and maybe our brief exchange will do the same for the workers.

Sounds like a great way to begin a new year.