When my grandmother would go the doctor, grocery store, or social event she would report back who she had met. Often, I would hear things such as “did you know the nurse at that office is the niece of your dad’s 5th grade teacher.” How the heck did she get that information? For my grandmother it was all about establishing personal connections. She wouldn’t have cared if she found out her blood pressure was high at the doctor’s office, she would have just delighted in meeting someone she had connections with.
My great grandfather lived in Miles City, the joke was he knew everyone in town and if he didn’t know them yet, he would get to know them. When I go into public with my dad he consistently finds someone he knows to chat with at each errand stop.
To my family these are meaningful connections. Some people collect tangible or sacred items, some of us collect meaningful connections and relationships. I come from a long line of relationship collectors. When attending social gatherings, it’s like unearthing a sacred relic if I meet someone who knows someone I know. This web of interconnectedness helps sustain us as social beings. The more strings we have in our web of connections the more prosperous and happier most of us become.
At this point in my life I find it odd that I love meeting an getting to know people. I was always a shy and introverted person. However, in branching out from my shyness I have discovered the stories and lives of others and enjoy learning them. As a nurse, much of my time was spent getting know my patient, their family, and their life story. I realize what I love about nursing is developing meaningful connections with my patient. We might be bonding over the foot wound I am attending to, but still have time to converse. It’s the conversations, not the tasks, that sticks with my memory.
I have cared for people who have been politicians, company presidents, single moms, and hermits. Each one left an impression on my soul. Attending to their needs on a heart level and a physical level is my motivation. I no longer work the bedside and crave those random connections again, never knowing what personalities await me in my assigned homes or rooms. I don’t have much tendency to collect tangible items, instead I collect stories, connections, and members of my tribe.
As I campaign, I get to bask in this connectedness again. In phoning potential voters, attending zoom meetings (and someday get to knock on doors) I get a thrill of hesitation and excitement about who might be on the other end of the phone, video or knock. I am usually pleasantly surprised and want to spend more time listening rather than speaking. Sometimes, I meet resistance or a cold shoulder and I just let that roll off my back and move on. I have been generously blessed in meeting politicians, political activists, other candidates and community leaders who mentor me.
Maybe I’m not the shy kid anymore, she’s still in there until a good ice breaker is found. Once I can connect with another individual the world shifts into a realm of human commonality and co-existence. In remembering how excited my grandmother was in finding a common connections with a stranger, I wonder if you and I really are not strangers, we just haven’t found our common thread yet.