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hidingWhere are you hiding?

As children, we all loved the game hide and seek. But what if we stayed hidden so well no one ever found us? The game would lose appeal fast. We didn’t really want to hide so well that nobody could ever find us.

As we grow older things happen to us. People are betrayed, passed over, and sometimes even traumatized. Through these experiences, we learn to hide. Our hiding places are many: Screens, food, work, charities, hobbies. None of these are bad. Only when they become our hiding place do they end up being shelters against risk, relationship, and (most of all) connectedness.

What will it take to once again playfully sing out “come and get me”.

Friends help friends

helpFriends help friends. This seems like a simple and true statement, right? But it can be complex. And true? As we use technology to hide, buffer relationships and in many ways medicate our many stresses, one of the first things to fall to the side is our connectedness to each other. When we fall out of connection, we also lose touch with each other’s needs, desires, and dreams. In or disconnected state we lose that twinge, that inner voice calling us to lend a hand, offer a referral, cook a meal, give encouragement.

It only takes small corrections to counter these tendencies. Who will help today?

Encouragement is ours to give

encourageAs we have been preparing to make our big move as a family (you can read more about that here: We are leaving the country) we have been having phone calls and visits with friends to share with them what our move is all about. These have all been so fun. Often it has been a chance to catch up after a long time of being disconnected. Just about the time all the details of moving a family to the other side of the world seems so overwhelming, we have a call with friends that more than makes it all worth it. We had a call like that last night. They (you know who you are and thanks so much) were so excited for us. Thier enthusiasm, encouragement, and care was just the fuel to stoke our resolve.

We have that power. All of us do. We possess just what it takes to encourage someone. In most cases it cost us nothing at all. The benefits to us are that it turns even our largest troubles around in the moment of gratitude and lifts our spirits as we lift theirs.
We don’t have to look far for someone to encourage. Who will you delight today?

The stories we tell

Stove in roomPeople have sat around open fires, hearths, tables and pubs telling each other stories for millennia.

There are two types of stories that are prevalent, the inspirational and the cautionary. The first one, on purpose or not, gets people dreaming. They may have never even thought of doing something, traveling, or stepping out of their comfort zone. On hearing another person recount something extravagant can be the beginning, giving them the energy to step out on their own.

The cautionary tale, while sometimes serving a purpose, usually stops people from venturing beyond the ordinary. These are where the old fairy tales fall. They were told to keep children in line, by warning of imaginary ogres and phantasms lurking in the woods. We have modern versions of these as well. Failures or false starts can find us telling others that something can’t be done, or a dream isn’t attainable. Warning others of real danger is necessary, but more often we are passing on our unfounded fears.

What kind of stories will we choose to tell?

Why we act in friendship

person helping someone upIs it duty or obligation that compels us to act in a relationship?

What motivates us to help someone without receiving something in return?

As I explore the concept of connections (guanxi) in Chinese culture, I have started to think about my gestures of kindness in my relationships and where they originate. As a westerner, like many, the reply “it is my duty”, in return to a “thank you” for a gift or favor granted could leave me confused or even offended. But if duty is a way of showing honor as well as your status as a friend, then it is something to cherish.

In the west, we would just say you are welcome and move on. In China, I can only relate this as almost an unspoken relational contract between people. Western society in many ways lacks etiquette, protocol, and decorum. Certain formalities seem archaic, but help ensure a social structure around friendship. Duty then in this context means something entirely different. It is an action done because it is the right thing to do. It is what moves the friendship forward and continues the process. If someone disrupts this, many things will fall apart.

If it is our duty to love, care, help and listen then doesn’t it motivate us toward more? If we begin at duty, maybe we end up at commitment?

What will you do

coupleThings happen in life. People betray, disappoint or even outright hurt us. Intentionally or not we come away scarred. We make statements like “I’ll never trust again” or “I am done with love.” Even worse is when we begin to believe something untrue about ourselves, people or future relationships.

There are plenty of things that come out of these events that land us on the hard side of relating with others. Instead, what if we choose to reach out again, show up for someone, or offer love to someone in pain. It takes a lot to trust again. There is no minimizing any of these things. One action can begin to unravel many wrongs. And truthfully it may get harder before healing. Like all journeys, you have to start someplace.

And beginning here makes sense. Beginning here says “I can be trusted. I care. I will listen.”

In the process of healing, we get to be a part of someone else’s too.

And a little more

letterDo your duty and a little more and the future will take care of itself. Andrew Carnegie

How does this apply to friendship? Is it staying in touch? Maybe it is checking in when we know a friend is struggling. Being consistent and consistently present? Perhaps a note to ensure someone knows we care.

It is the duty in friendship; that is the mortar keeping it live. The day to day to Carnegie, if speaking about friendship, would mean that the friendship would stay the test of time. Not by doing nothing, but the opposite “duty and a little more”. What is your duty? What is your “little more”?

As if no one else is around

Rear view mirrorConnecting with someone takes effort. The action comes in being fully present, mindful and focused on them and no one else. Recently my wife and I have been driving our daughter to a horse stable to ride and take care of her horse. It is about a 15-minute drive each way from our house. The ride though has turned out to be time to connect. No interruptions allow us to have the conversations that can’t happen at home or anywhere else. Sometimes we just listen to music on the drive. Often she does not begin to open up until we have driven for ten minutes or more. Other days she chatters away about the day, and I am thrilled to listen.

It becomes harder when we don’t have that time without distractions. It is too easy to lose focus and drift off in conversation. Technology is too convenient of a distraction. Before we know it, we have lost our connection.

It is a hard practice to follow but so rewarding. Acting as if the other person is the only one in the world gives us a chance to hear between the lines, the hidden pieces of their story and make a real connection. We may be the only one in their day that does it. We never can know the impact that can make on their lives.

Excited for them

mapIt happened twice today. The first was my excitement over a strangers departure on a thrilling overseas adventure. The second one happened as I talked to a friend headed on a weekend trip to one of my favorite childhood vacation spots. As a spectator on both accounts, I still became excited over what they would be experiencing and the thrill of visiting someplace new.

To join in on others endeavors is to fuel their own enthusiasm. To be caught up as if we were ourselves are participants not only ushers them on in their resolve to step out and try new things but also enlivens our hearts to embark on our own undertakings.


china-young-manThe Chinese term for relationship “guanxi” is difficult for a Westerner to understand. The word has differences that are not only helpful for navigating friendships and society in China but also in the West.

China has fascinated me my whole life. As a way of both learning more and exploring our connectedness I plan to do a series on community and relationship in China. These will be both explorative as well as experiential. I have spent time in mainland China over the last three years. It is those shorter visits and the friendships I have gained, that originally sparked my desire to write a book on connection.

I will post on this series throughout the summer as our whole family prepares to move to China. My wife and I both with be working as foreign exchange teachers at a university for the next two years. It is an exciting time for many reasons. One that is at the top of my list is the chance to learn from a society that places relationship as one of the most important values.

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