Like thousands of others in the region, we lost power to the house following the recent tornados which ripped through communities. Unlike many others, we suffered no losses or property damage. Saturday morning I awoke and realized I had no way to grind my coffee so went in search of the closest Starbucks with power. At the Bank and Third Avenue location I joined a line of caffeine-deprived folk seeking a morning java. The estimated wait time of 45 minutes did not faze me― as the long chain slowly snaked its way into the store and towards the counter I had an opportunity to chat with families in line ahead and behind me― people from the West end and LeBreton Flats, all without power and in search of food and drinks. We chatted, we shared stories and we traded photos of our pets. While I may never again bump into these strangers, for a brief period of time we connected. Then we said goodbye.
Connection is what makes us human. It is a link, an engagement with someone or something. On a daily basis, we connect with family, friends, colleagues and strangers ―in person, on the telephone and on social media. We connect through nature, through shared holidays and through a community of shared activities and interests. Connection can be sparked through conversation, through a smile, a touch and a brief meeting of the eyes.
Sometimes though, there is a disconnect when the intention behind the words or gesture is not genuine. Ever bump into an old friend on Bank Street, someone you haven’t seen in years? You pause to chat on the sidewalk, and then invariably that person says, “We should get together for coffee sometime.” You reply, “Yes, that sounds like a good idea”. There is an awkward pause, then you both turn and wave goodbye. No follow up coffee date takes place. Over time, I have learned to honour my commitment by saying, “I’d love to get together for coffee with you. How about I check my calendar and get back to you with a couple of dates?”
Connection also occurs in the workplace where it helps establish a way of getting to know our colleagues and to stand in their shoes. Taking a few minutes on a Monday morning to ask someone how their weekend was or inquiring about their work projects brings us closer together and helps create a community of shared trust.
I once coached a newly-appointed manager in a large government department who was struggling to fit in and connect with her team. She felt awkward and shy; her team members perceived these qualities as aloofness. One of the practices I gave her was a simple one —to buy donuts and bring them to a Friday morning team meeting. The gesture was so well-received by her employees that she instituted it on a weekly basis. But donuts were not the only solution. The client and I worked on her connection to colleagues in the workplace, and over time she found ease and pleasure in her new role.
Yesterday, I found myself at a red light at a busy intersection. The car windows were down. A black Jeep Cherokee pulled up on my left, a young male driver at the wheel. I cocked my ear to tune into the unmistakable voice of rapper Eminem filling the air around us. I turned, caught his eye and gave him an appreciative thumbs up. For the briefest of moments we shared a love of music. He smiled broadly. Then the light turned green and we were off.