Here we are again, you and me, in the wee small hours of the morning. It’s almost 4:00 and I haven’t been able to sleep much; worrying about my friends and my neighbors tonight just leaves me unable to clear my head and sink into the comfort of a deep sleep.
I worry about making our neighborhood as pleasant and low cost as we as association leaders can make it as our developer completes their work and moves on. I worry about new neighbors moving in and how welcome we can make them feel as they settle in and hopefully get acquainted with us charter members of this new neighborhood. I worry about our neighbors who face physical challenges associated with age and illness, and I’m glad our homes are designed to be ADA compatible and easy to navigate; and that we all seem to do what we can to make sure our neighbors/friends do not feel isolated and alone as they face their challenges.
And then my thoughts turn to our gang of friends for 60+ years and I worry about the same things. Are we keeping in touch as we age and develop our own physical challenges and wage our own wars with heart disease, diabetes, neuromuscular disorders, cancer, and other ailments? Are we supporting and encouraging each other as times get tougher for each of us in their own way? And I think I’ve come to understand, it’s probably my own ailments talking here, just how important this idea of connection can be to our personal well-being.
About three years ago our gang started gathering again, once a year, to share a meal, roast a few marshmallows, and reminisce around the campfire. It’s one of my favorite days of the year because we get to re-live so many shared memories, all the way back to the ‘60s, and no one cares that they’re all reruns. They’re collections of life’s perfect moments, little vignettes of times together that are permanently etched on our minds and hearts and make us the people we are today. These gatherings of ours are just one of many ways we stay connected.
I also have a group of model railroading friends who have been getting together weekly for decades to help each other build and operate our model railroads. We too have all of these shared memories of good times that help keep us connected beyond our weekly meetings. Over the last several years we have experienced the painful losses of six of our group to cancer and other illnesses, and each time we have been there for their families, to help their estates deal with unique hobby collections for which finding a home is difficult, and to comfort and watch over family members without large or extended families on which to lean. We’ve stayed connected and it has helped us enjoy life and yet personally to face challenges, and cope with loss.
But getting back to our gang, I couldn’t stop thinking about how having the support and encouragement of my gang has helped motivate me to engage in my own battle with cancer. Being able to plan for our gathering, to host it, and to enjoy that time with old friends was a huge emotion and morale booster for me, as I hope their own presence was for them. But as I laid awake I couldn’t help but ask myself if I/we were doing enough for each other to sustain that connection, particularly for those of us who couldn’t be there. For me these connections are becoming as important as faith and family, as much as they already have been for many of you who aren’t as late to this “connections” party as I am. It’s taken my own health battle to help me understand.
So let me ask you this, are you building and maintaining connections outside of your own family, enough that you have your own little mutual support and encouragement society? Do you have a best friend or a group of best friends that you can lean on when you need help and who can lean on you when they need help? It doesn’t have to be a big group, and they don’t have to be geographically close. Some of our closest friends live thousands of miles away, and we may not see them for years at a time, but we find ways to stay connected and then we find that time and distance don’t matter. Those connections may have begun through shared experiences or even adversity, and survived years of separation and lack of communication, but they were always there when needed.
(So repeating myself, sorry, it’s four o’clock in the morning!) I was asking myself a similar question as I laid there wide awake, am I/are we doing everything we can to care for our friends who aren’t able to show up for these annual gatherings? My conclusion was, no, we’re not, and I don’t want them to feel left behind, or on their own. I want them to feel every bit as supported and encouraged as I have felt by my connection to this gang of ours over the past months and years when I really needed it.
I intend to do something about that, hopefully with the help of some of the rest of the gang. I want to ensure that everyone in our gang feels the strength that comes from the life and love that we share with each other.
Looking for ways to build and value my connections – Pops