We all want to make real, lasting connections with people. So why not start with your very own neighbors? It can feel a little intimidating to reach out to someone you don’t know, maybe even a little awkward. It did for writer Shannan Martin too. But despite her status as a card-carrying introvert, Shannan has found that connecting with the community around her in small, low-stakes ways has given her more joy than just sticking to a polite wave. Emily and Shannan talk about some easy ways you can get to know your neighbors or loose acquaintances a little more (Guess what? You don’t have to feed them dinner!). Because at the end of the day, once you push past your feelings of discomfort, you’ll discover that the gift of connection is definitely worth it.
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“Every relationship we have begins with a simple hello.” – Shannan Martin
“It's never too late to say, ‘Okay, I'm just going to take it one little tiny step further,’ and go from there.” – Shannan Martin
“What does that look like to love your neighbor? It looks like living our our actual lives in all the chaos and complexity and the mundane, all these aspects of our life that are really pretty universal.” – Shannan Martin
We start connecting with our neighbors by paying attention. We pay attention in the midst of everything else we have going on. And then, when we see an opportunity to engage or to connect in some way, we're ready for it.” – Shannan Martin
“When I come into my neighborhood and into my home, I just have this grounded feeling of, This is my place. I belong here. I know the people around me. We find ways to connect and interact, and it's fun. Sometimes it’s weird, sometimes it's sad. I mean, it's the full abundance of life—like, this is actual abundance, when we’re with the people around us. It's just the best thing ever.” – Shannan Martin
“If we can come to a place where we're a little more interested in seeing the world from the vantage point of our neighbors, or the people in our community who are “different” than us in some way, it unlocks this way of life where we get to enjoy being curious about each other rather than being skeptical of each other.” – Shannan Martin
“No shade on Martha Stewart here, but I think she’s skewed our perspective on what connection needs to look like. It doesn't need to be this impressive, entertaining affair. In fact, if that's our goal, that's actually going to keep us apart from each other. Yeah, we might be impressing people, but when we impress somebody, all we're really making them feel like is, Oh, I can't do that. Oh, I'm not enough. I've learned this mostly through my actual neighbors who have welcomed me in the most basic, and normal, and low-brow, unfussy ways.” – Shannan Martin
A Blessing for Your Week
May this year be a time of connection with people who are new to you,
Who think differently, and play differently, and love and worship and cook and live differently.
May you be inspired and challenged by the way they move through the world,
And may you take their best lessons and apply them to your own path.
And as you serve your neighbors with love and patience and kindness, may the joy you give them be returned to you as well,
Because that’s what it means to find a new friend: to serve and be served with a big, brand-new joy.
Simplicity Tip of the Week
Listen, I know it can be intimidating to try to make a connection with someone else. If it’s easier for you, why don’t you ask a friend to make that commitment right along with you? Maybe you go volunteer together at the community garden this spring, or help out at an adult literacy organization. Maybe you reach out to another mom in your kids’ class and invite her to coffee with the two of you.
Sometimes these things are a bit easier when you feel like you’ve got some “backup,” when you feel like the success of this new relationship isn’t riding all on your shoulders. You don’t get bonus points for doing these things by yourself—but you do get the added benefit of making memories with your bestie.
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