Human connection & sitting on benches with old strangers
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
― Brené Brown
Earlier this year, I headed down by the local park in Milltown (Dublin) and stumbled upon a bench by some trees. As I sipped on my flat white, a dapper old man in a full suit, peaky cap and posh walking stick strolled my way. With the most lovely smile, he asked to join me on the bench for a chat. Little did he know that on that particular day, a chat with someone kind was exactly needed and so, we carried on chatting for the following 40 minutes, before running back to work with a head full of wisdom and a grin from what I had learned from Tommy.
This gentleman is well known in the area. As people walked past calling him by his first name and sharing his gentle energy, it was clear that he has and continues to make quite the impact in his 94 years.
Advice about education, adversity, romance and traveling the world were shared by him and it was a chat that would remain quite memorable. That is until two months later, when I met him again and we shared a chat. again and a piece of carrot cake and this memory added to the bank.
In 2022, the idea of community has changed somewhat. People are different compared to before and actually, the value of a simple hello and a chat on a bench have possibly escaped us over the last few years. It’s possible that chatting to a random stranger on a bench might seem odd and actually, eye contact has perhaps become a bit awkward.
With 68% of our world living in urban areas, it’s clear that being able to connect and show warmth to each other can’t just relate to the countryside folks. Not to be biased but statistically, there are more cases of community in rural areas. Perhaps this is due to tradition or the general need for connection as countryside people commonly see ditches and wide fields outside their doors.
As I consider the elements that made the encounter with Tommy so special, I wonder what the important world of connection can achieve for us in 2022 and how this can become increasingly deliberate as this level of busy continues?
First of all, connection is an opportunity all around us. 70% of communication is actually non-verbal so simple things such as smiling, being open with our bodies and making eye contact can make an impact to how we come across to the world.
My father always reminded me ‘look for the good in everyone and you’ll find it.’. Therefore, there is going to be a chance to find something to chat to someone about, a kind word or something about them that endears you. Don’t take that for granted and particularly in circles such as work or neighbours.
Helping someone else means helping yourself. They say if you want to cheer yourself up, cheer someone else up first. Times are a bit challenging for people right now. There’s a lot of talk about recession, being unwell and change in general. Negativity breeds negativity and so, a random act of kindness can help steer people towards a more positive moment.
There’s power in the silence. Nature is a medicine and honestly, to understand how important connection is, go and sit in for an hour or two. You’ll be surprised what you’ll hear.
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