Commentary: Finding humanity in breaking the daily routine

Any-one who has seen the movie ‘Ground- hog Day,’ featuring an unenthused reporter played by Bill Murray, may be more inclined to associate Feb. 2 as a mockery of the daily grind rather than a weather prediction cast by a groundhog’s shadow.
Whether or not we are aware of it, we have all fallen victim to the monotony of our schedules at some point in time. Most of us have conditioned ourselves to a pattern of behavior that can convince us we are living the same day over and over again. But there are of course the exceptions:’ the days where random events or weather patterns break news headlines and the excitement of impending holidays interrupt our routines.
On Jan. 15, when Flight 1549 miraculously landed on the Hudson River absent of casualties, the story resonated across the nation as the ‘Miracle on the Hudson.’ But even more impressive than the images of passengers standing on the plane’s wings, creating the illusion of walking on water, was the immediate response from witnesses. The Hudson soon swarmed with activity as ferry boat captains rerouted their schedule to offer assistance to the stranded plane.
Then something unusual happened. In the quiet moments that unfolded in newspapers across the country following the incident, still photographs that captured the overwhelmingly relieved facial expressions of passengers suddenly revealed something much greater:’ there was a sense of humanity and civility that made the aftermath of Flight 1549 so successful.
Less than a week later, an occurrence with similar parallels took place. The inauguration of President Barack Obama drew nearly 2 million people to Washington, D.C. Amidst the sweeping flurry of the crowds, zero arrests were reported. Instead, the celebration radiated a positive energy; the kind that had gone unnoticed or simply lost in the daily shuffle of American lives. But on Jan. 20, through the sea of waving flags on the National Mall to the televised faces of joyous citizens in areas across the country, there was an apparent sense of community. Once more our daily routine had been altered, and a sense of humanity prevailed.
On a smaller scale, but no less significant, snow storms have been known to produce similar effects on people. We become more conscious of one another on snow-dusted sidewalks, compromising shoveled paths to make room for passing strangers. Cars move more slowly, trains are more crowded and the streets of Boston are silenced under the weight of falling snow. And among the growing snow banks and biting wind that buries our faces deeper into our scarves, there is subtle camaraderie in battling New England’s unpredictable weather together. We unknowingly share smiles, help shovel a neighbor’s driveway and extend a hand to those who slip on the icy sidewalks.
With Groundhog Day officially upon us, it is convenient to reference the easily identifiable plot of the film of the same title to our own lives. It is also convenient to continue our routines without giving much thought to the contrary. But take the lessons that 2009 has taught us so far in stride. There is something special about changing the pattern of every day events that bring people together in a different kind of way. And perhaps the repetition of our days is attributed in part to the way we interact with others.
So as you move on and look ahead toward the next calendar event, consider that expressing love, gratitude and simple acts of kindness need not be reserved exclusively for Valentine’s Day. And in keeping this thought in mind, you may just find your days less repetitive and more fulfilling.

‘- Rebecca Fenton can be reached at [email protected]

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