The other day I was out for my daily bout of exercise, the intentional walk to get out of the house and get the body moving, and as I passed one particular person in the street I noticed how enthusiastic they were in saying ‘hello’. It may have been a very brief interaction but through the tone of voice and the hand-waving I could tell that they were keen for the interaction. And it reminded me of the need for connection, particularly in these days when you never quite know how people are really doing and what they need.
However, connection is so needed for all of us, whether we are extroverted or introverted. The modern meaning of connection has really diminished the way we think about interacting with others. You see, connection is what I do when I plug my phone into it’s charger, or when I have a Zoom meeting, or when I message someone on social media. Connection in modern parlance is often lowered to online interactions that make us feel like we’ve interacted with someone but really we’ve just liked a post as we scroll through our feed. So instead, what we really need is a significant interaction whereby we are able to express our joy at seeing and speaking with another. The joy evident in the person I was walking by was palpable as they waved, said a big ‘hello’, and slowed down a little to look me in the eye.
It feels like this is lacking right now.
The Bible doesn’t use the word connection for interacting with others, perhaps it would if it was written today. But it certainly makes clear that humankind is made for human interactions. Relationships are a key to humanity and its sense of well-being. Relationships are what the story of God highlights, whether it’s between people, between nations, or between humanity and God himself.
Right back in the Creation story, in Genesis 2:18, we hear God’s word about the situation Adam finds himself in, ‘Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.”’ It was evident, even from the beginning, that humankind was made for relationships, for significant ‘connection’, if we wish to use that word. Adam tried to ‘connect’ with the animals but none of them were sufficient enough. Instead, it was another human being that filled the relational tank and provided the connection needed to function in a healthy way.
We can’t read the Creation narrative without mentioning the relationship with God either. This was obviously severed significantly at the Fall, but it is one that humanity continues to wrestle with and desire throughout the Old and New Testaments. If you are a believer in Jesus then you will realise that it is through him we are able to have that restored relationship back with God.
But connection with others, with people in our communities, our friends, family, and neighbours is something we’ve been created for. Part of being human is to connect relationally with others. And that’s part of why this moment is so tough for so many.
Perhaps one of the practical steps we could take to help others during this time is rather than try to avoid interactions with one-another, is to actually acknowledge the presence of others. Whether it’s a wave, a nod, an enthusiastic ‘hello’, a ‘great to see you’, or some other human response to acknowledge them. When I’m out on my walk it is now a regular occurrence to find those walking toward me to move over to the other side of the road. I know it’s so we can all stay distant from each other for health reasons, however it’s a pretty sad state of affairs if walking by each other is now something to avoid.
With lockdown continuing there provides for us an opportunity to show something different. To impact our community by doing some small things while out and about. In sharing a connective moment with others while out for exercise or at the shops we might be able to be people who shine light into the lives of others in this challenging time.