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Wired to connect

Posted: March 13, 2014 2:17 p.m.
Updated: March 14, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Can we fully live without human connectedness? I believe I will rely on researchers at Psychology Today or the like to tackle and decipher all the answers to this tough question, but will safely say in my opinion, a life without human contact would not hold significant worth for most of us. We can attest to this by the relationships, the connectedness we hold with family, friends, with perfect strangers. It is the daily connections we have with our mom, our dad, our sister, our brother, our neighbor, our best friend, our co-worker. It is the guy in front of us at the grocery checkout, the lady we share an elevator with, the passenger on a plane we sit next for two hours. It is the human connectedness we experience a hundred times over in a day. It is the “state of being joined or linked.” It is association, compatibility, integration, affinity we have with others.

Good relationships are the foundation for almost every measure of well being. Our incidental sense of peace is at its best when we feel good about our daily relationships and the contact we have with complete strangers as well. Our concord depends on these links. It is hard to dispute the veracity that people need other people. We all have the need to feel closely connected to others. It is an essential part of human behavior, part of what makes us human.

It is human nature to want to be acknowledged by others, to be needed. It is present and a positive charge even between two people who are meeting for the first time. I witnessed this when we recently moved my mother to a new Alzheimer’s facility. She walked in to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar faces. She felt safe only in the recognizable appearance of her three children. However, I watched the splendor, the beauty of human connectedness develop right before us. All it took was a warm expression from a nurse, a hand on her shoulder, and my mother’s inhibitions began to diminish. Next, it was an invitation to join a group of patients socializing in the commons. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged and my mother quickly began to feel like she belonged. She had been accepted into the group. The bonds had been forged and would only grow from here. And the desire to be needed, to be acknowledged was satisfied as my mother began to help set the tables for dinner. The absolute fear she came in with lessened and her mood lightened. She now felt like an essential part of her new community, and for this we were grateful.

I witnessed the remarkable power of human connectedness between complete strangers as my son described his recent time in Honduras on a medical mission. He drew an amazing picture in our minds as he explained the first two days spent at an orphanage. “The kids at the orphanage immediately ran to me. They wanted me to pick them up. They wanted me to run with them. They wanted me to play chase, to kick their ball. They knew I was a friendly stranger and wanted to connect with me. From the time we arrived each of the mornings, the kids had smiles on their faces. They were happy to have made new friends, even if only temporarily,” my son said. This was a clear representation of the link between strangers and the aura it can create. He added, “As the bus pulled away on the last day, the kids who had been my favorites literally were running behind the bus shouting ‘Luca, Luca, Luca, come back.’” My son told me once the kids were out of their view, he had to bite his lip and lower his head to prevent from looking like a complete “idiot.” In only two days, my son had formed a bond with these orphans that brought him to tears. “It just about broke my heart leaving them,” he said.

Genuine human connection and real-life interaction is about so much that matters, that is important in our lives. It is the connections with our family, our friends, the strangers that cross our paths just once that really make life worth living. A good friend recently told me at the funeral of another great friend, “The relationships I have with my friends are what make my life complete.” Losing this friend made us all reflect on the prominence of our personal connectedness. This “anti-hero” was the friend we were always pulling for. Why you wonder? Because he always made us feel appreciated and loved. He had a way of doing that… R.I.P., SRW. Heaven’s the lucky one now.

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