Being Something For Someone Else, And Letting Someone Else Be Something For You
I invite you to watch this lovely video (“Building Community and Purpose in Life”; link below). It’s about how Mr Stephen Jon Thompson came to find his place in the world, from being an unwanted child considered a trouble-maker by the authorities.
He said so many things that ring true to me, the foremost being:
“I learnt that everyone, wants someone to be cheerin’ in their corner” ~Stephen Jon Thompson
Ain’t that the truth!
As I’ve written in my last few posts, everyone wants to belong some place or to have a place at all. This is not just a physical space, but as Mr Thompson said, having someone cheering for you.
It means that to at least one person, you matter!
And that I suppose, in the light of the recent Melbourne Bourke Street Tragedy (I’ve watched some videos on it), was what made the late Mr Sisto Malaspina (Rest In Peace) so special to so many people. I feel compelled to pay tribute to this quality of the late restauranter.
He was not just the co-owner of Pellegrini. He was that SOMEONE cheering in people’s corner, whatever corner that might be. He was special for being so.
From what I’ve gleamed, people who visited his restaurant felt that he really took time to know them, and to do little things to make them feel like he was thinking of them. And because of that, Mr Malaspina built a beautiful community around him and his restaurant.
That is a legacy that could not be taken away.
As Mr Thompson asserted, “If I connected to people, I would always be bound to them.” And it was a deep kind of bond that could open up a more meaningful life for us.
In these times of Facebook Likes and Friendship count (yes, I’m highly aware of the irony of writing this post on Facebook!); real connection of the type PRACTICED by these two gentlemen is getting less and less. The art of building connection, I fear, is getting lost.
And more and more, I’m seeing people suffering from depression or aloneness because they no longer remember how to connect with others. Even if they did, they didn’t know where to find a community that was not just a collection of people glued to their phones. It seemed like these real communities are fading away!
We’ve got to urgently reclaim both the ability to connect and hence to make real communities, and to teach our kids how to do the same (and I don’t mean plugged in to their gadgets, in case this wasn’t blindingly obvious).
So HOW do you build a community? Here are a few ideas worth trying.
1) Do what Mr Malaspina and Mr Thompson did – They lifted people up and cheered them on. Mr Thompson recalled how he attended every sports event his friends participated in, and literally cheered for them. He also attended performances and ceremonies. He studied with them. He was a constant presence amongst them. Ditto Mr Malaspina.
2) Mr Thompson also suggested cheering for people even though you did not know them very well. This means reaching out of your comfort zone and reservations. I once was on a walk with a friend and saw a group of people dancing in the street-side. I believe it was tango. Being a fan of tango, my friend jumped in and danced with them. They had a ball of a time. I wish I had done so too, despite having five left feet.
3) As I was at pains to mention, you can also practice Deep Bone Listening with people. Even in small amounts. Mr Malaspina, from what people said about him, was most likely a very good Listener. He took in what people said about themselves and remembered them. There’s nothing quite like the act of Listening to let people know that you are taking them in.
4) Create little moments of Real – in one of Sam’s earlier posts about the little moment of community when we visited a Singaporean wet market, he described how a usually boring and hassle-filled marketing day transformed into a shared experience of authenticity. Be creative, as you’re in the queue at the convenience store, or at your café, or in the library; think of how to make any interaction Real (and not superficial). Aim your mind enough towards this endeavor and you’ll start to see more and more ways to make interactions Real. Authenticity is another connection builder.
For instance, when you’re at your barista’s, the exchange usually goes like this: “How are you?” and expect the standard, “Good, thank you. And yourself?” And then it dies down. Connection? Zero.
Instead, why not ask something about the barista. Say, “is it hard to learn to make good coffee?” or “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but you’re looking a little bit tired. Are you ok?” or “What are some interesting customers you’ve had this week?”
Or if you see a fellow customer in the queue holding on to his own coffee mug – make conversation around that. “That’s an interesting looking mug. Where’d you get it from?”
Asking these from a point of genuine interest will see the interaction really open up.
So there you have it, some ideas (not exhaustive) about how to build connections and form communities.
I leave you with these words from Mr Thompson: “My community, is my connection!”
Go forth to make those connections.