Wednesday, May 14, 2014

REAL Connection

I sat down this week to read about the next trigger in my Happy Women Live Better book: connection. One glance at the subtitle of the chapter, "Why you are less connected, more anxious, and have fewer close friends than women in previous generations", and I knew that this chapter would hit home with ME!

I have often felt that I was born in the wrong generation. I have always wanted to be one of those women with a back fence and a friend to share recipes with, chat over the day's happenings, and discuss life's latest hurdles. I long for those Sunday afternoons like the ones I remember from my childhood: my brothers and I would play with the neighbor children while Dad played a friendly game of horseshoes with the minister and whatever male neighbor dropped by, Mom would sit on the porch chit-chatting with the minister's wife and the neighbor from the corner.

Those days are gone----

My children are growing up with schedules of their own: academic competitions, athletic practices, club meetings. My husband and I sometimes have 12 hour days at work due to meetings, groups, and trainings. When we do come home we bring stacks of paperwork with us. Sunday afternoons are now the time to squeeze in a quick nap before tackling lesson plans for the upcoming school week and grading a few more papers.

There are times when I feel more like one of these:

running, running, running...... but never really getting anywhere.

With all of that running, it becomes very difficult to make REAL connections. Even in today's world of email, texting, Facebook, and Twitter, our conversations are short and to the point. Few people take the time to write handwritten notes because it is so much easier to just text a swift- How R U?

Last week I did my own sort of personal experiment to see if the younger generation could really appreciate something that they had never received- a hand written, from the heart message. I sat down with a stack of blank cards to write a personal message for each of my eighth grade students prior to our end-of-year testing. With almost 60 to write, I paced myself, composing 8 to 10 a day until they were finished. Some of them came easier than others. Some of them were more personal and detailed, but the important thing was that each card was meant to be an actual connection between me and that particular student.

On Friday of last week, I distributed the cards at a gathering. Four students were absent that day and did not receive their cards, leaving about 53 who did. When the students left at the end of the school day I went back to the small auditorium to pick up the cards that were left behind. I knew that there would be some, but I was pleasantly surprised. As I wandered up and down the rows of seats, I found only 5 cards that were left, carelessly tossed in the floor, in the crack between chairs, or behind a cushion.

Most heartwarming to me were the comments that I received: "Thank you, Mrs. Baker", "Mrs. Baker, you almost made me cry", and even a thank you from a mother whose son actually took his card home and shared it with her.

What does this show? Connections CAN be made in today's society (even with that so-hard-to-reach younger generation). We can connect with those around us, sharing our heartfelt messages. We only need to make the time.

Valorie Burton offers the following advice in her book:
  • Stop typing and start talking- Pick up the phone and actually speak to a person rather than texting. Better yet, go visit them in person and spend some time REALLY talking.
  • Make eye contact- This one speaks for itself. Look the person in the eye; that is the first connection that needs to be made.
  • Get out of the house- Actually get out into the world and spend time with others. If you are not WITH them, how can you CONNECT with them?
 A real connection is sharing from the heart. God offers the following words about loving others in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 It is this type of connection that will truly create happiness within us. It is that type of connection that we need more of in today's world!

I challenge you to go out today and try to make a connection with someone that you spend a lot of time with- someone that you may not REALLY know. Look that person in the eye, take the time to listen to what he or she has to say, and then share your heartfelt thoughts with them. 

You never know what a difference a connection can make. Those students who I wrote notes to last week? As I walk down the hallways this week, I have noticed more of them greeting me with a, "Good morning Mrs. Baker." More of them give me a smile and stop to share personal thoughts or comments. They seem happier and I know that I am! Maybe the notes that I wrote have something to do with it- maybe not, but I like to think that my efforts at connecting with them on a more personal level have helped us all!

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