It's true. Sometimes we just get by. But, in our finer moments, most of us wish to become a better human being. Why is that even important?
Consider the English poet John Donne who proclaimed, “No man is an island.” Do you think he could have even imagined our crazy connected world today? And what does that have to do with becoming a better human?
Turns out, a lot. For, while we have increased in connection, we can also hide behind those very same tools of connection. As a result, we fail to truly connect.
Connecting well across cultures – whether in our own backyard or halfway around the world – takes intention. But the benefits prove huge, both personally and collectively, for our world. A peace dividend is at stake here. That, in itself, should motivate us to do it well.
Five Ways to Really Connect
What can we do today to increase our ability to connect well with those who differ from us (which is just about everyone)? Here are 5 clear steps we can take to not only connect well with others, but become a better human in the process:
1) Take time every morning to seek the answer to this question: “Just who can I bless / help / serve this day?” Don’t miss it! No question, It’s so easy to move ahead into the day without asking this important question and surrendering our heart – and our day – to discovering this answer.
As a Christ-follower, I call upon God for such answers. But I do believe no matter what you believe, it's the yielding of self and the slowing down to actually ask this question – and wait for the answers – where relationships can thrive. Hence, it's a good idea to be aware of how these opportunities often emerge throughout each day.
2) Consider whom you can encourage in your online world. Remember, it’s not just about responding to messages and inquiries coming your way, but taking a step to connect with someone with whom you may not have had contact recently.
If you reach out in sincerity, inquiring how he or she is doing, the result is the person is likely to be not only surprised but honored. For there is not a single person on this planet who doesn’t like to be remembered.
3) As you consider your schedule for the day and week, make note of those you will encounter face-to-face. An annoying coworker? A domineering boss? A whiny child? Or, a friend whom you always enjoy?
Seek to be an instrument of peace in each and every one of those interactions. Rejoice in the easy encounters. Seek wisdom and patience in the difficult ones. Even more, watch how these interactions form the composite of your day, your week, your year, your life. Remain intentional. Because each person is in your life for a reason (and maybe simply a season). So, what can you learn from them, even when difficult?
4) Do an “old-fashioned” thing – make a call, send a real letter, invite a friend over for tea or dinner, bring an unexpected gift to someone! The elderly especially appreciate such gestures. Do this on a regular basis and you will see the benefits it reaps in your life and in the lives of others. Because, when you sow into relationships in this way, others feel esteemed – but so do you! As a result, it is most always win-win.
5) Explore – and act – on a way you can really reach out, stretching beyond your comfort zone at least once a week. This may be achieved by signing up to help out the local Boys and Girls Club. Another way may be to become an English Language Tutor or Literacy Tutor for immigrants in your area.
Perhaps you could call the local homeless shelter and find out how you can serve. My favorite is to volunteer through International Students, Inc. It's a nonprofit through which over 300 staff and 24,000 volunteers reach out to over one million international students in the U.S. (as well as many overseas). In most cases, there will be some in your own backyard.
As you take these types of actions, you yourself will become a better human in the process.
What will you do today to get off your island? How about helping someone else get off theirs?
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