This is not a blog post. It’s a research mission.
It’s a surprise brainstorming party and you’re the special guest.
The topic is connection, or intimacy, if you will.
It’s something that makes me feel a bit like I’m living in The Twilight Zone, so I’m asking for your help.
(For those of you who are too young, The Twilight Zone was a TV show, from my earliest childhood, where the main character would, all of a sudden be thrust into a world that didn’t make sense to him.
I remember an episode where a boy came home from school and none of his family spoke English anymore, and, if memory serves, speaking English had become a punishable offense.)
And, that’s exactly how I feel about connection with others.
Like my internal rules – the ‘how-tos’ that just come naturally to me – just don’t apply in, oh, about ninety-nine out of a hundred cases.
Trying to connect on a subway train is like…
For example, when I step onto a crowded subway train, my aim is to see the people I’m riding with; to connect with them.
I may not start a conversation or even say hello. But I want to look into eyes and see life. I want to smile and see a light get a little bit brighter.
But I’m constantly thwarted in this.
Even in my own church community, I know that the majority are going to at least minimize the chance of connecting with me in the line up to greet the Pastor or over the cream and sugar table after the service.
To be sure, there are a lot more people willing to genuinely see the people around them at church than there are on the subway, but it’s still not the norm.
I promise, I’m not creepy. Trust me.
And, before you think that I’m some creepy staring person, or that I have two lazy eyes pointing in a variety of directions, in which case, it would be completely understandable for people to have trouble connecting this way with me, I assure you, I’m not.
I’m not creepy. I’m not repulsive looking, though that shouldn’t matter, especially in church. I’m not even a close talker with halitosis.
People just don’t see other people.
The reason, I believe, is that people are afraid to be seen. People think that they won’t be able to survive the rejection that their flaws might cause.
We all want to look into the lives of others. Why else would we watch the TV shows we watch? But we don’t want people to look into our lives. For some more than others, the risk of being seen feels like a threat to our very survival.
But, if we’re to be a force for good in the world, we have to be able to connect with others.
On the whole, in the relative affluence that is most of North America, people don’t need me to do stuff for them, or to give them stuff.
People need me to see them and accept them anyway.
- The man asking for change on the corner.
- The unparented teen mom with her infant at Tim Horton’s in the middle of the night.
- The star of the football team.
- The family at church who look perfect and unapproachable.
We’re all trying to answer the same questions, at least on some level.
middle of the night questions
Am I enough? I am acceptable even with my faults? Do I belong here?
Everyone asks some version of these questions. And the answers that we all get from the world around us can either trip us up or boost us up.
So, here’s where the brainstorming comes in.
I’m thinking about my church, but this struggle to create connection is everywhere. And every community, whether it be at your company, in your family, or where you volunteer, has the potential to be a great encouragement to it’s members.
We need to figure out how to up the real connection between community members. Eyes need to meet more and hearts need to leap a little because we know we’re being accepted when we’re seen.
So I’m looking for ideas of how to nurture the connections.
I’ll start with a suggestion of my own and then, hopefully, some of you will chime in with your thoughts.
suggestion #1: Create an inclusive clique
Remember ‘cliques’ at school?
The cool girls. The sporty girls. The preppy girls. You had to look right, talk right and act right to ‘be in’. And, once you were in, you were treated like you belonged.
I want to create a clique at our church. I want to create a clique online.
To be in, you have to be a bonafide, living, breathing human. With a pulse. If you’ve got all that going on, then you’re in.
You’re loved and accepted.
And we, the other members of the clique, will treat you like you’re special and cared for.
To make it happen, everyone for whom starting conversations with strangers comes naturally, needs to be intentional.
Can we do that? Can we intentionally reach out, in person and online to create this kind of clique?
What ways have you seen connections be successfully created and nurtured in a community? What do you suggest?