Human connection is absolutely critical to our survival. We might continue to eat and sleep and breath, but without it, we will not thrive. I firmly believe that our purpose in life is to be the best version of ourselves so that we can love those around us well. But that takes an investment, both in ourselves and in others.
So how do you cultivate those relationships? It’s fairly impossible to pull them out of thin air. If work isn’t a place where you might meet people, or you don’t work, begin by finding a community to participate in. Join a church, a softball league, a parenting group, a place to volunteer. Choose things that reflect your passions and personality so that you are exposed to people with whom you have something in common.
And then, be the someone (more below)….
Be the Someone
I used to believe that everyone around me was attending lively dinners and fun outings… except me. The truth is, everyone is waiting for someone to invite them to an lively dinner or fun outing. Be that someone!
If no one else is doing the inviting, do it yourself. It doesn’t matter if you can’t cook or your home is tiny or you have no money. Tell everyone to bring their favorite dish and a drink. Let go of the perfect picture (I have seen people cram into the tiniest of spaces and have the best of times) or, find a different location. Plan a picnic, visit a vineyard, meet for a hike.
If people continually decline your invite, don’t take it personally. It just means you haven’t found your people yet. Stick with it. They’re out there. When you’re living authentically in your own life and tending to your passions and gifts, you will inevitably cross paths with like-minded souls.
One thing I’ve learned in life is that you can know someone without every really knowing that someone. Relationships, like all things, take a bit of work and patience. I used to host periodic dinner parties but often conversations remained superficial and on the surface. One evening, I stuck a question on each person’s plate that they had to answer. Suddenly, we discovered things about one another that we had never known. The real depth in friendships comes when we are vulnerable and real.
If we never share the most authentic pieces of ourselves- which are often the messy, imperfect parts that have needs and fears- we will never truly be known. My friendships have always deepened in the moments when my friends have encountered hardships and invited me to share the burden with them. While we should take care not to make our burdens the responsibility of others, we can be brave and invite others to see our struggles. See if you can challenge your relationships to grow by being vulnerable and inviting authenticity.
Share the Love
Perhaps the best way to feel less alone in the world is to show up for others. Culturally, we are very geared to receive. We are less primed to give. We are also very busy. Even so, one of the most profound ways to create human connection is to give your time to others. Volunteer. Help a neighbor. Take soup to that friend who has a cold. Take your kids to serve in a soup kitchen. Build it into the template of your life so that it doesn’t feel like something extraordinary. Do it humbly and authentically, not because you should but because you can. Doing so will expand your perspective on life and breed empathy, which is the connective tissue between us all.