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Initiating Connection

SIMPLE WAYS TO CONNECT WITH THOSE RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU

Article by Jami Nato

Photography by Jami Nato

As you know by now, I am really into community. I think it is so important—and especially now, in 2020. An observation is that we now feel so comfortable behind the screen, we tend to lose our humanity, and the humanity of the ones we are "talking" to, or shall I say, typing too.

The problem is, real life has not stopped with its incessant hardships and trauma, but also celebrations, babies being born, finally getting that sourdough right! People still need people seeing people, really seeing them. Across the street or on a walk, in the grocery store behind the Plexiglass, new mom's trying to fit in with the kindergarten class that they can't even volunteer in, a friend who lost her baby. Now more than ever, we need to be out from the screens and inviting people in.

But how! What anxious times we live in! I wouldn't want to offend!

You can still be involved in real life but just with a few tweaks, and I have a challenge for you: for the rest of the month, intentionally try the following things:

1. Take a walk with the purpose of saying hello to people you see along the way.

Be prepared to take out those headphones when you see a neighbor to say something very midwestern like , "Can you believe this weather!" I went on a walk the other day and saw an older gentlemen working on something pretty fervently with pen and paper. After I said hello I yelled, "Looks like you're really cranking away!" And he stood up and said, "You know, I just retired and I have to keep busy so I'm taking an algebra course to stay sharp. It's been pretty lonely." Now I have his name, and now I make sure to take that route and also stay for a quick chat to brighten his day. You never know who will be impacted by your interest and kind words. And by the way, if you're an introvert like me, Practice makes perfect. Work on saying hello and it will get easier and easier.

2. Start a group chat with your neighbor gals or school mom or church ladies.

Ask them over to the driveway for wine or social distance and soda waters. Yes, Put yourself out there—YES, even if you hate group chats. Yesterday, through one such group text our "quaranteam" decided to do a kid's halloween Carnival in our culdesac. We will all be making up a game the kids can play and "hosting that game", complete with tickets and all. While steering away from bobbing apples, there are some cute ideas here! Might as well put all those old Covid wine bottles to use with a ring toss!

3. Get involved (or initiate) in a book club or a bible study with friends.

Figure out a book and get moving on finding a morning or evening to hang. This can obviously be done by zoom, but see if you can't have it be outdoors or a patio space. Set the rules, make everyone safe and comfortable, and get moving. I so look forward to my Wednesday night bible studies during the fall and winter, when it's easy to really hermit. I know my tendency , so I am intentional about making space to get out.

4. Find someone who needs help and physically show up for them with yard work, or a meal, or some kind of physical help.

Listen, most people will not tell you what they actually need. When a friend had covid recently, our several friends on a group chat (SEE! This is why you need group texts!) sprung into action coordinating meals for the next week. She didn't ask for it, and she never would. In this instance, I say "We are bringing you dinner and you can't say no! So, make sure to tell me dietary restrictions or we'll have to guess." Boldness in initiating is a welcomed gift. Permission slip to be assertive and get into someone's mess with them.

5. This one is technically using technology, but just the voice message feature instead of texting someone.

If you think of someone, don't let it stop there, tell them! We are living in a very isolated time, send a quick love note. "Hey, thinking of you. I am so thankful for the time you brought me that marg and left it on my porch when I was having a rough day! I don't know why I thought of it , but just wanted to say hello and I love you! Tell me how you are." This keeps us connected, helps us to be vulnerable, and keep supporting friendships we want to keep.

Like I said, we live in tough times. And with an election coming up, behind the screen will get more volatile. more information saturated, and there will be more polarizing opinions. It would be tempting to believe that politics matter more than people. That's just not true, and we must fight to remember we are all humans fighting our own personal battles and doing our best. When we remove the screens and enter into real community, even with a few tweaks, we will learn to love each other more deeply and thrive in those connections we so desperately need.

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