We are all connected.
We’ve heard it a million times. What does that mean? Why does connection matter? And why would I want to experience connection in a different way?
Let’s take on those questions. Together.
Recently I had a really big day. That day when there are 10 more things-to-do packed into the schedule than time will allow. Like many of you, there are times when my day is maxed-out. Meetings to attend, school functions to support, and the never-ending list of work and family responsibilities.
Some colleagues and I are starting a local chapter of a national non-profit organization for people who have interest in the Camino de Santiago, a transformational spiritual pilgrimage in Spain, and parts of Europe, walked by millions of people, over more than 1000 years. Here’s a general Camino info link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago
This project feels concurrently magical and nerve wracking. If it goes off well it could bring people together in a new way, and the experience of connection we share can create a positive impact for people in our city. At the same time, we had significantly more people than we expected, and I felt like the pressure was on to start it all off in a grand and meaningful way.
That “big day” I was feeling harried and hopeful. As part of the event, we decided to create a slideshow presentation full of images from our adventures on the Camino. We asked everyone attending the kick off meetings to share images from that walk that meant something to them. We knew sharing our journeys along this spectacular, and historic trail would be inspiring and create a bond forged through our common experience.
But that day I woke with nagging chest pain, stomach upset, and a swirling mind.
I’d put off picking up a cable adaptor we needed. I don’t love visiting the mall, and going there was out of the way, making it even harder to find time to make that trip. The adaptor would link my computer with the projector, raw information/data with a way to share the gorgeous slide show assembled by our group.
An important connection. Without that cable everyone’s efforts, and beautiful photos, would be missed, and my first act as a leader would be to let our new group down. Though I’d put it off to the last few hours, I needed that connector.
As I walked into the Apple Store I saw the first greeter with a customer, his back toward the entrance.
Really? Back to the door? At Apple? Gazing past Greeter #1, was Greeter #2 also fully engaged, back to the door. Odd, I thought. They usually swarm upon entering.
Scanning the room I noticed two “Geniuses” engaged in a conversation at a table nearby and another few farther into the store. Though Genius 1 had his back to me, I was on a tight schedule, so I asked for help with finding the adaptor (Thunderbolt to VGA in case you are curious). He smiled, and made polite conversation as we walked to the back of the store. I wasn’t sure exactly which cable I needed, so off we went to the front of the store, to look at computers and confirm. While we were there I asked Genius 1’s name. “Francisco,” he said and smiled. He asked my name. “Jennie,” I said, and we smiled together again.
Much of the tension from that morning dissolved in that one, simple interaction. When we stopped and took a moment to really see each other as more than customer and employee. It was relaxing and energizing. It felt real.
While we fidgeted with the cable connections he asked what I needed the adaptor for.
I told him about this first meeting of pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago in Austin.
He stared with his mouth open. I am used to people not knowing about the Camino, so I went on to explain a little. “It is a spiritual pilgrimage across the north of Spain. Don’t worry, many people don’t know it.”
Still silence from Francisco and a blank face.
“Do you know it?” I asked filling the silence.
“I am from Spain.”
“Great! Then you know it?” No change in his face.
Then the smile started to expand from the edges of his lips to the tips of his ears, then extended to his forehead and chin. His got taller, his chest expanded, his eyes lit up. His whole demeanor shifted. A full body smile.
“Well, though I am from Madrid, I have a house on the Camino, and that is where I grew up!”
“NO WAY!” I responded, and the conversation took off.
He was so happy to share our newfound connection that he opened one of the computers and we took a few moments to see pictures of a beautiful park on the beach near his house and then he showed me his village.
We talked about the area in Spain and the beautiful scenery. It was like meeting a long lost friend. As I left the store we agreed to talk again. I wanted to hear more about his village, and he, the group and the walks we had taken.
What started as a rushed errand finished with us both feeling seen and appreciated, and in a sort of flow of life.
I needed a connector, and what I found was connection.
So, why do we care about connection?
Because connection reminds us that we are not alone even when we are lost in the maze of our thoughts.
Humans thrive on friendship and appreciation, sharing stories, sharing our lives.
Our society is more virtually connected now than we have ever been before (we could visit Francisco’s Spanish village in the middle of the Apple Store in Austin, Texas), but sometimes we walk around surrounded by people in our own protective bubbles. Sometimes I wonder if we are more connected to our devices than the people and world existing right in front of us, just beyond our screens.
My day was definitely better, and I would argue my life is better for that connection with my new friend Francisco. I might have missed that chance to improve my life, if we had not taken that moment, and tiny risk, to share ourselves and to connect.
This journey we are starting together – you and I – is an adventure and a love story. We will visit places just around the corner, and across the globe, which will delight and surprise us. We will find ourselves and each other in the world that surrounds us. We will love it, and sometimes we might find ourselves uncomfortable with the realness of connection.