Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the connections we make. In a great TED Talk, Brene Brown explained, “So where I started was with connections because, by the time you’re a social worker for ten years, what you realize is that connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”
I first saw Brown’s presentation at a two-day retreat I attended with other faculty and staff from Adams State. We were talking about the challenges our students face, how we sometimes contribute to them, and how we can be become better at what we do. It was one of the most emotionally-charged and eye-opening events I’ve ever attended, and I walked away with a greater appreciation of how important connections are.
Last January, we celebrated Mom and Dad’s sixty-third wedding anniversary. Talk about connections! After all this time, they are still in love, and their connection continues to grow stronger each day.
I’ve been married and divorced twice, and I haven’t been in a “serious” relationship for quite some time, so I’ve become especially curious about what makes relationships work.
My sister and brother-in-law are another example of a great relationship, and as we drove down to my home town of Manassa to celebrate my parents’ anniversary, it struck me that I am surrounded by great examples of powerful connections.
There are a lot of other ways we connect. I have friends who are important to me, and our connections remain strong in spite of the distance of time and space that separates us. When I am able to connect with my students, we become a team with a common goal. Connecting with colleagues strengthens us all.
Unfortunately, the current atmosphere in our country makes it difficult to make connections with one another. Too many seem more interested in winning the battle than in being right, and we would rather bully each other than become aware of one another’s challenges, and when confronted with a different perspective, it’s easier to dismiss it with a label rather than listen and try to understand. We have forgotten how to discuss and disagree with respect and courtesy, and we cannot connect with one another until we learn how to accept, and perhaps even appreciate, our differences.
Yet making connections is important to all of us. During the retreat I attended, we discussed the importance of making our students (and each other) feel connected to the university. When we feel like we are part of something – especially when we feel we are part of a team – we are more likely to be successful. When our students understand that we really do care and want them to be successful, they are more likely to work with us. When we feel connected to our work environment – when we feel like appreciated members of a team – we are more likely to communicate honestly about the challenges we face as well as our successes.
When I ask Mom and Dad how they have managed to stay together all of these years, they will talk about their connections to each other. They may use different words – Mom likes to say the secret of a happy marriage is to marry your best friend – but all of their advice relates to being connected and working together.
We don’t have to all think, but if we don’t learn how to accept and appreciate each other, we don’t have much hope for a better tomorrow. And things never stay the same, so if tomorrow isn’t going to be better, I’m afraid things are only going to get worse.