My family moved from Chicago to Washington DC when I was fifteen.
At the time I mostly mourned the loss of friendships. I missed my grandparents and extended family as well, but the friendships were more immediate. We made annual trips back but, of course, it wasn’t the same.
Eight years later my grandfather died. At his funeral I realized how much closer my cousins, who had always lived nearby, still were to Nana and Pa. I was suddenly acutely aware of the loss the physical distance had created. Even if we moved back I couldn’t make up those years. I felt a double loss, both the past and future ripped away from me.
It used to be that families stayed with the farm, in the town, at least close proximity. Kids grew up with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighborhood friends and families. Lifelong connections were the norm. In our mobile society, though, we are missing those. To fill that void we’ve come to rely more and more on peer friendships for those close, core connections.
The problem is that those connections are horizontal. Our friends tend to be mostly people in our own age group or life stage (career, young kids, retired), or who share our personal beliefs in areas such as religion and politics.
We need to be sure we have both horizontal and vertical connections.
A vertical connection would be anyone who is younger or older, in a different life stage, different religious/political/socioeconomic status, significantly different from you in some way.
There are three types of core connections you need—people behind you, beside you, and before you.
1. Peers and those with similar ideologies would be people beside you.
2. People behind you include children, mentees, students, anyone you have more experience than or can help.
3. People before you would be parents and grandparents, mentors, coaches, bosses, people with age and experience (they do tend to go together). They can be people who are where we want to be five or ten years from now in wisdom, career, relationship, etc. They can be people of differing religious, political, socioeconomic backgrounds.
Here’s a hint: the more uncomfortable the thought of a conversation with them makes you feel, the better a connection they can be.
So schedule a time and get together. Buy them coffee or lunch. Plan an activity. Do it face to face if you can at all, and ear to ear if you have to.
If you’re not sure where to find those people, keep your eyes, ears, and heart open. Pay attention.
Here are a few out of the box ideas to get you thinking not only of who to connect with, but some of the benefits:
Millennials in a Retirement Home
Preschool in a Nursing Home
Brothers and Sisters of the Big Variety
All it takes is some effort to stay connected. In this day and age, even a cross-country move doesn’t have to feel like it.
Creating Systems for Courageous Kindness
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