Thursday, May 10, 2012

Living for Today: Finding Meaningful Ways to Connect

Is all the media craziness and focus on violence, scandals, angry tirades against the “other” side depressing to you, too?  How can we connect with one another with hearts full of frustration, judgment, and fears?  Even activists with worthy causes can burn out when not paying due attention to their own personal and community needs.

We need to create networks of support, some on-line like Facebook or Twitter, but we also need supportive circles where we meet face to face—book clubs, church groups, neighborhood potlucks, community gardens, intergenerational gatherings for causes dear to us locally.  The list is endless.  These are gatherings to rebuild communities where folks care about one another, and small enough that we genuinely get to know one another at a deeper level than is possible in large protests, taking a cruise, or workshops with large numbers of strangers.

When we are sick, and someone brings us soup, we feel cared for.  It makes a difference when we are grieving the loss of a parent, spouse, or good friend and someone gives us a helping hand, alleviating our loneliness and worries.  Kindness and a gracious heart matter more than rhetoric when we are down, and need somebody to be our friend.

In this technological age, it is too often easier to connect on computers instead of taking time to get together or have a phone visit, letting us tune into non-verbal cues. A pyramid has strength because it has a firm foundation.  When we focus on building sustainable communities where we live instead of expecting Washington to come up with answers, we return to a self-reliance and interconnectedness with a strong base when we have to make tough decisions that affect our home fronts.  We create meaningful connections that can keep regenerating when elders retire and the kids move far away.  In such a mobile society, we often have to count on extended family for much of our support. Often our original family members live far away and cannot lend a hand due to distance or job demands.  We need to stay open to new ways to connect so feeling isolated and alone isn’t our constant reality.

Part of being resilient as we age is staying open to new friendships, new ways of learning, and keeping our brains active and curious as well as attending to our bodies.  All this takes time, focus, and commitment or we fall into familiar habits, some of which may no longer serve us.  It feels good to give back to community with our own unique talents.  It feels good to have a sense of belonging, and be flexible instead of rigid in the face of changes we often cannot predict or control.

Carol Browning

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