People need people. In the beginning of time, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” As civilization evolved, survival depended on people working together to build communities, raise families and run economies. Good communication skills and emotional well-being depends on regular, healthy interaction with other human beings. This has become quite the challenge as we are now being told that we must “social distance.” We just aren’t built to be well from a distance.
We need each other. Every single person alive has a desire to be loved, to be appreciated and the need to feel respected. We need others to hold us accountable, someone to lean on and someone to help us up when we fall. Relationships are important, and the ability to maintain those relationships can be tricky sometimes.
As we are seeing in our present society, people can strongly disagree on very basic principles of life. Our country is divided, and division drives hate and chaos. In recent months, we have seen the ugly side of mankind in our country that many of us have not experienced in our lifetime. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it.
Naturally, when we are a witness to such destruction and chaos, we want to withdraw and not trust, not to engage. On some level, we want to give people the benefit of the doubt, believing that they are good in their soul and not just wearing a mask in public. But when we are let down and disappointed by those we trusted, it becomes more difficult to have the ability to be emotionally vulnerable in relationships. If we are not careful, this can become a big problem because we build our guard up, put walls up to keep people out and can find ourselves feeling alone. And remember, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
Out of all the ugliness in this world, remember that there is still goodness out there. People who will encourage and love you, even in the most trying times. In my life, I have been blessed to come across some of the best friends that anyone could ever have. Not that I was out there looking for them, they just appeared, seemingly by chance. But I know there is no such thing as chance. One of the most inspiring sermons that I have ever heard was about Divine relationship intersections. God puts people in our path, and we choose to either continue a relationship path with them or carry on our own way without them. Some people who cross our paths are not necessarily meant to stay there forever, but each serves a certain purpose in our journey.
Not too long ago, I met a man on a plane. I was coming home from visiting friends in Montana and was boarding my early-morning flight back to Mississippi. If you have ever flown, you know that everyone dreads getting to your seat to discover who the person you will be sharing personal space with for the next four hours is. That is especially true during this pandemic, where personal space is essential. To my relief, the flying partner I was paired with on this flight was a very nice man whom I was able to strike up a friendly conversation with.
Of course, the natural conversation flowed from where you are traveling, what do you do, etc. When he shared that he was a retired federal law enforcement officer, I exclaimed that I was the luckiest person on the plane to be seated next to him! As we continued to share our lives and experiences with one another, we realized that we were more similar than different in many ways.
We each have awesome families who are supportive and happy. We also shared emotionally traumatic experiences that we have encountered in the work that we have chosen to do. We laughed hysterically about me (as a social worker) having to take his place as a police officer someday if the police departments are defunded.
When he retired from law enforcement, he took up the art of photography and shared with me some of the most beautiful photographs of the planet that I have ever seen. I then shared with him my love of painting — realizing that we have both turned to creativity and art as a way to deal with the hard things that we have experienced emotionally in our jobs.
We discussed our faith and belief in Christ, challenges with kids, places we have traveled, and bragged about the people we care about. Before we knew it, the pilot announced that we needed to prepare for landing. Not only were we flying, but time did too! We said our goodbyes at the gate and thanked one another for the great conversation.
While walking to my next gate, I looked for a place to grab a quick lunch and ran into him again! Turned out, each of our next flights took off within two minutes of each other at neighboring gates, so we continued our conversation through lunch for the next two hours. We said our final goodbyes and made our connections on social media so we could keep in touch. On the plus side, everyone knows it is always good to know a federal law enforcement officer — you know, just in case.
The point of this story is that we should always be open to conversation with other human beings. Just because we have encountered a couple of turds in our lives doesn’t mean that they are all turds. There is still such goodness out there — people we can connect with, people who God sends to us to travel with.
Enjoy life as it comes, cherishing each moment and each interaction as something special. If you run every time someone tries to connect, you will become tired very quickly. Connect, converse and create. You may be missing a blessing if you don’t.
Dr. Rhonda Smith is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at South Central Regional Medical Center. Email her at email@example.com.