Hot and humid, temps over 100F in the sun, with plenty of sun. Despite a lot of hazy overcast we hit over 104F in the sun yesterday. Since hot sun on my arms feels like dipping them in molten metal, I hid indoors. Yep, I kindly ran away…
And I’ll be doing something similar today, getting the minimum pickups done, then getting ready for swim meet, and then doing said meet. Sometimes real world meatspace obligations overwhelm anything else. And I’ve volunteered to run the grill for 3 hours at the meet. I think I’ll be wearing long sleeves. Still gonna suck.
But that’s life. We are still having grilled burgers and swim meets, and get-togethers. Our little chunk of the big city still has a small town feel when we are just the kid’s school, or just the school neighborhood. There has been a lot of overlap in the various Venn diagrams involving the kids over the last 6-8 years, and while we aren’t close to anyone, we at least know names and are nodding acquaintances (my wife far more so than me). Someone less anti-people would be quite tied in. It’s an existing network that it wouldn’t be too hard to expand if need be. For example, the ladies work it constantly. The mommy mafia makes recommendations, shares experiences, and is the FIRST choice when one of them has a question involving local affairs/-living/-meatspace.
If you aren’t leaving the house, if you aren’t socially connected to your community, you are at a disadvantage. Child activities make it easy, but if you don’t have kids, find something to do. Join a club, a church, a charity, or a service organization. You need to be involved at least a tiny bit. You need access to the information flow, the local zeitgeist. You might need to be a known entity, a liked and valuable entity, if things get worse – “Oh George is cool, he helped me fix that thing, and I see him Wednesdays at the shooting range/at Little League games/at the food bank…”
A ‘community of the mind’ based on shared interests and modern communications is a very nice thing. “Intentional family” or “family of choice” or whatever they’re calling it these days is a great thing. But they don’t replace the cashier at the local store you chat with, or the guys in the men’s group, or the old farts drinking coffee at the Golden Corral, or your ham club, or car club, or poker friends, or fishin’ buddies.
It should go without saying that you shouldn’t be “that guy who rants about politics with all the guns” or “the sour old @ssh0le that’s one step from a mass shooting” or “the guy who acts like a Fed” or “the guy who comes in every Wednesday but never says “hi” and never leaves a tip….” or any number of negative things…. To benefit you, it needs to benefit others. Give a little to get a little. A rising tide lifts all boats. Be a good neighbor. People notice. And they notice the opposite too.
Stack up some relationships. Stack up some stuff. Stack up some good karma. You’ll probably need it all, and still be short.
Added– if you are like me you might need to be reminded – consistency and longevity are key. Johnny Come Lately is just that. You need to get started so that you’ve always been there when things are worse down the road.
Be approachable. I’m not sure what it is, but people will talk to me. They come up to me to talk. I LOOK at them when I say hi. I don’t just use a rote greeting. I’m friendly. I don’t glower. I don’t intrude, but I open the door for them to respond. I do it a hundred times a week, and it might not work 58 times, but most people want some connection to others even if it’s just a tiny bit more than a superficial exchange.
I say “thanks” and in a way that it’s not just automatic, if they’ve actually done something. I offer praise instead of criticism – a stocker at the grocery store asked “are you finding everything” in a very rote way, I paused to consider my answer (which broke the rhythm of the rote exchange) said “pretty much”, again not a stock answer, then told him I thought they were doing a great job of keeping the shelves looking good “given all the challenges they’re having”. That opened the door and he told me about how their warehouse operations were going, how their staffing was having issues, and made several comments about supply chain issues. I ended with something like “well thanks, I appreciate you guys working so I can buy food for my family.”
That was a one off conversation, but it could have led to more the next time I saw him, and it gave me some first hand info I wouldn’t have had, while helping to reinforce the social bonds between people in my community. I want him to feel GOOD about what he does because I want him to continue doing it!
Chatting with people and being open and approachable is NOT my nature. I very much had to learn it, mostly on the job. Look for some commonality, even if it’s tiny, that you can use as an opener (one reason why people talk about the weather). It takes time and is a skill that you can improve. Mostly, for me, it took realizing that I really didn’t have anything to lose if I tried and failed. It can still sometimes be awkward, and I still sometimes decide not to do it. I’m better at judging when people are receptive now than I was, but really the cost of trying is so low, that I usually try. If you sometimes get a glower, or a blank stare? Move on.