About 2-3 years ago, I was sitting on the front steps of my house in Toronto, enjoying a glass of wine with my partner in the early evening of a hot summer day. Our children were laughing hysterically while wrestling and chasing each other on our neighbour Mary’s front lawn. Unlike the modern stone and mulch landscaping many of us newcomers to the street had installed, Mary still had the same well kept rectangular plot of grass that her family had maintained for the past forty-five years. In hindsight, I think she was glad that she did because after losing her husband a couple of years earlier, and now living alone, it brought her great pleasure to watch our two children tumble across one of the few small bastions of nature left within a sprawling city.
While this was happening, one block away, a person that I had never met was sitting on the front porch of his house enjoying the serenity of another day coming to an end. Hearing the distant sounds of our children playing, he got the idea of rounding up his two young boys, so that together they could investigate this two person circus. Within a few short minutes they were slowly sauntering by, smiling and laughing at the antics of our kids. I met eyes with the dad, who moments earlier was reading a book, and as I often do when breaking the ice with a stranger I made a joke. It was likely something I would typically say such as, “They’re yours if you want them”. It turned out that he could return the banter, and after a few sarcastic remarks at our mutual children’s expense, he and I began reciting lines from the same script most of us use when meeting others for the first time.
“So, do you live in the neighbourhood?”
“You do? How long have you lived in that house?”
“Where were you before that?”
“How do you like the hood?”
“What school are the kids going to?”
We have all engaged in this sort of friendly dialogue, but since I can only stomach that script for so long, I began asking questions that would allow us to scratch a little deeper beneath the surface. By this time, the four children had done that magical thing all kids do, which was to skip the formalities and get right into explaining the rules of the game they were playing. The father’s name was Guy (as in Lafleur for my hockey fans, and a hard “G” followed by double EE, for those of you who didn’t follow the sport when helmets were optional).
About fifteen minutes into the conversation, his wife eventually went looking for her family, and made our sidewalk conversation a party of four. It didn’t take long for my children to ask if they could take the two boys behind our house to play in the much bigger laneway. With a nod of approval from their parents, we all walked between the houses to continue the conversation, while the circus worked on the expansion of their acts. With glasses of wine now in all of our hands, we talked for over an hour, until it was time to endure the always rewarding experience of telling your kids that it’s bedtime. We said our goodbyes, and exchanged phone numbers for future playdates. It turned out their kids were the exact same age as ours. Go figure right?
Within two weeks of that fateful day, we invited their family to join us at an upcoming cottage we would be renting in the town I grew up in as a kid. They took the plunge of trusting we weren’t murderers, and during that trip I discovered that Guy had a strong affinity for the history and architecture of small towns. So much so that this experience led him to renting a home weeks later in the same area for his extended family, not just in the town I grew up in, but also in other towns close by. From what I was told, it was an experience that provided great memories for everyone.
Fastforwarding through the less than three years since our initial meeting, our families have shared time with each other at even more cottages, gone backcountry camping, had multiple dinner parties, celebrated holidays and birthdays and a few more bottles of wine along the way. It also led to a great friendship between myself and Guy, where today we commiserate over the world's biggest challenges by sharing news articles weekly via What’s App. And if all of this is not enough, our fathers became friends, which extended into a weekly meet up between six senior citizens who get together every Friday morning to enjoy coffee and connection.
And that’s what it’s all about. When we choose to connect with others, we choose life. Whether it’s greater adventure, deeper knowledge, new opportunities, extended support, attracting more laughter, introspection, wonder and joy, human connection has always been the conduit. But like electrical circuits, the power comes on only when the wires are fused together. And a plug can’t enter the outlet unless someone leaves their front porch, or another decides to ask uncommon questions without the guarantee of knowing how they will land.
When I look back at my life, I can draw the same line of human connection between that which adds value to my life today, and a conversation I intentionally created in the past. Some led to big life changes, while most offered pleasant additions to my existence on this planet. Later today I will be collaborating with a woman on a potential project that came about because of a conversation I started with a stranger, who happened to be her boyfriend. I just began enjoying spiritually uplifting content by someone on Instagram because of a conversation I started with a stranger in the stands at my sons recent soccer game. We had dinner with new friends a few weeks ago because of a conversation I had with a stranger as our children decided to teach each other tricks on the monkeybars. And the two young angels I get to call my own would never have existed if I had not started talking to stranger in a restaurant thirteen years ago.
And whether it’s talking to a stranger, or someone you’ve known your entire life, human connection will lead you to anything you want and need. All you have to do is reach out for it, grab on, and enjoy the ride!
P.S. We are slowly moving the content we offer to www.humanconnectiongroup.com, and invite you to take a look around now. There you will find recourses and tools that will help you, or your organization to harness the power of human connection!
THE HUMAN CONNECTION GROUP’S QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Pick someone, share this question and create a connection!
" If there was one rule everyone had to follow during the holidays, what should it be?"