“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
― Herman Melville
Each night before I go to sleep, I reflect on my day and pick just one thing that happened which I am grateful for. In previous years, I have met those moments and then dismissed them to the quiet of sleep.
This year I wanted to try something very different.
I wrote last week about my intentional practice of writing down one thing that happened during my day in a gratitude journal; no longer content to let those moments die with sleep.
As I was thinking about this week’s topic, I looked through my journal to see if anything of note popped out that would make an interesting essay. What I found surprised me in a way.
For the past 14 days, I found an interesting pattern to my gratitude entries. All but one or two, were centered around an encounter or exchange that I had with other people. It was profoundly interesting to me that at the end of a day, regardless of the many wonderful experiences or moments that I encountered, it was the people in those moments that I chose to write about.
Take a look (actual entries):
1/1: girls came home after a week at their father’s house
1/2: snuggling with Grace
1/3 watching Anna play basketball followed by a family meal with lots of laughter
1/4: greeting/seeing/talking to staff and students at TJES after a long winter break
1/5: seeing the excitement on the faces of students as they anticipate the coming snow
1/6: early dismissal from school for everyone’s safety
1/7: waking up to a Winter Wonderland and sledding with Dave and the girls
1/8: quality time watching silly girl shows with Grace & Anna, watching a movie with Dave
1/9: yummy meal that Dave prepared for me just to show how much he loves me
1/10: being there for Anna’s last regular season basketball game
1/11: dinner at Chili’s with Angie and Eric – laughter and fun
1/12: seeing Jaclyn, Judy, Ashley, Sherri & Marsha at a district meeting – catching up
1/13: helping a teacher solve a problem with a student
1/14: Dave & I had a night out with friends (Jaclyn/Steve, Meredith/Matt) at Atlantic Ale House
As I look through that list, most of the entries revolve around people, the relationships I have with them – big and small. The joy that those encounters bring me wasn’t the surprise; it was the frequency. I guess I expected that I would list things like: “that first cup of coffee”, “the surprise piece of chocolate I found in my purse”…..Those are little things that I’m grateful for as well; yet, at the end of a day when I sift through all the experiences, I find that the human connections pack the most punch in my intentional life of gratitude.
Why is that?
Let’s explore a couple of perspectives on this.
Gareth Cook, the Mind Matters editor for the magazine Scientific American, explored the importance of human connections with the author of the book Social, Matthew Lieberman. You can read the entire article at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-are-wired-to-connect/
Cook asks Lieberman why the need for connections is so powerful. Here is an excerpt of his answer: “Across many studies of mammals, from the smallest rodents all the way to us humans, the data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed. When this happens in childhood it can lead to long-term health and educational problems. We may not like the fact that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our connections with others, but the facts are the facts.”
Scientists have long ago concluded that we are wired with a need for connections – to one another, the world around us, and to something larger than ourselves. That spiritual side of who we are. Of course, science only confirms what I have long believed: God placed the desire within us; the desire to seek relationships with one another and with Him.
In Genesis 2:18, God declares, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (NIV)
One commentary on this verse out of Cambridge says the following: “Man is created a social animal. His full powers cannot be developed by physical and mental work alone; nor his moral being by self-discipline in solitude. His faculties and his character require to be expanded and beautified by the duties of domestic and social life, as a member of a family, as a friend, as a fellow-worker, as a citizen. To be alone is not “good”; it does not promote his fullest life, or his best service.”
I love this…..we cannot realize our full potential without the social connections beyond our own selves.
During His time among us, Jesus gathered people to him – to feast with… to worship with…to teach…to heal…to celebrate a marriage with… and to grieve with others in their hour of pain. He too knew the power of connections. He also knew when to retreat and be alone. The introvert side of me appreciates this fact about Jesus. It gives me permission to take time to reflect and gather from within so I can continue to give to others beyond.
As I continue the practice of writing about a moment of gratitude from each day, I look forward to more discoveries and insights into the things that matter most to me. It is my hope that by reflecting on these things, I can more easily prioritize where my focus will be in moving forward.
Reader, I challenge you reflect on the encounters you have with the people around you – family, friends, enemies and strangers alike. Our individual humanity is like a thread in a piece of tapestry. When the One who created us, weaves all of our threads together, He creates a tapestry of humanity that depends on one another.
We need one another.
It is through our connections with each other that we individually become who we were created to be.