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.

Finding beauty in between

stonesI was listening to a friends life story recently. Hearing someone recount the ups and downs of their journey is rewarding. Not one is alike, and if you pay close attention, you can pick up themes that even they do not often see.

Besides these themes is the beauty we can overlook in the hardest times of our past. As a listener, I’ve learned to ask about those gaps in between “better times.” Questions like “did you discover anything about yourself during that time?”, or “who were your best friends with then?” help begin the discovery.

Simone Weil said “There are only two things that pierce the human heart.
One is beauty, the other is affliction.” Hardship or tragedies frame the beauty in our lives. In many ways, it allows contrast to exist.

If we take the time, we find endless treasure in each other’s stories. In the process, we help each other heal and understand.

What we don’t know

magnify glassThere is so much complexity to each of our lives. We have parts of ourselves we don’t share openly and even ones that we forget or have to leave out. Just like a movie is nothing like the book, we pick and choose the parts to share because it would be impossible to include every detail.

For this reason, we can’t assume to know the full picture. When learning about someone we need to keep mystery and discovery in mind. Have you ever found out something new about someone you have known for years? And there are even more to find.

Old friends and married couples fall into this pattern of feeling like there is nothing new. Often our perceived boredom or familiarity in a relationship happens because we think we know it all. The truth is we are only beginning even with someone we may have known for decades.

And thus, the challenge arises to dig deeper, ask questions, become students of each others lives. We can expect mystery and reveal new things in return for others to discover.

Love ya

Man talking on phoneMy daughter overheard a friend and I signing off on a phone conversation. “Love ya,” my friend said, and I returned with “love you too man.”

“Do men usually say that to each other?” she asked?

Her question was the beginning of a great conversation about terms of endearment.
I explained that there were a few men in my life that I would say that too. Some others I would not. Regardless it had me thinking about how much our words match our feelings for others. Children are naturally affectionate in both words and actions towards parents and others in a tighter group. As they grow, those actions begin to become filtered in many ways due to peer influence and how they perceive others see them.

What would it take for us to give our hearts in our interactions again? Would you be willing to risk being seen as foolish or odd by expressing with words how you feel for a good friend or loved one?

The man I had been speaking with is part of a greater group of men who I have walked with for many years. The group has been through illness and health together as well as loss and victory. All of us have been able to break through Western norms to express how much each of us mean to each other.
I am so grateful for it.

Her time

motherOne of my favorite memories growing up are trips my mom and I would take to the Oregon coast together. A member of our family owned an old forties era bungalow cabin heated by a wood stove that looked out on the breaking waves in one of the most beautiful sections of beach in the world. The one ingredient that set it apart was mom’s time. I am her youngest child out of five, so having her attention and time was often rare with many siblings to manage, love and herd.

We would spend hours playing Uno or talking. It is these stolen moments with my kids that I enjoy the most as well. Sometimes it takes a period of silence for them to open up but the extra time investment is so worth the wait to hear about their teen struggles and life dreams.

One of the most important parts of our connectedness as humans is one to one time.
I think it is probably the most disrupted one as well. Busy schedules unintentionally force us to make group meetings over the individual time. We become economic instead of intentional in our parenting, leadership, and friendships. Technology acts as a surrogate but a horrible substitute. A text message exchange can never replace looking another person in the eye.

In business, these meetings are where most of the growth happens not just for the employee but also the leader. People share more, open up and ask for help and guidance.

This mother’s day I am thankful for my mother. She still naturally seeks out that time with her children. And she does not stop with us. I see her reaching out to those around her the same way. She is a great example to follow. Thanks, mom.

The delight in her voice

helloI was out weeding in my yard early this morning when I heard something across the fence and through our neighbour’s window. “You’ve been here just waiting for me!?” said a young mother in soft loving voice to her baby seeing his mother for the first time that day. It was heart warming. Right away I smiled.

How do we usually greet others?

Yes, we may give our most loved one’s kind hellos and other similar greetings but do we offer delight when with our greetings?

Often a kind reception can change the whole path of a conversation or event. So many people go about their day head down, just trying to make it through. Life is hard.

Who are you meeting with next? You will you see next in your day?

What might make them smile, laugh or lighten up a bit? Just like that mom we have the power to change someone’s day with the simplest actions.

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