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In 2016, our family briefly moved to Minnesota from Massachusetts for my husband's job. There were (too) many days the only person I interacted with other than my children, was the clerk at Target. I soon realized for my emotional and mental health I needed to create and foster ways to spark a dialogue inside and outside of our family.
Whenever I meet someone I try to Pause and think of something uplifting I want to share or a compliment I want to give them. If I cannot think of something authentic to say, I ask a question. Once I asked a boy about his necklace at the Target checkout line and I was there for ten minutes as he explained a long back story. My husband was getting restless as we had somewhere to be, but I always appreciate the engagement!
Creating the opportunity and interest for our family of five to spend time together takes some strategic planning, but the benefits are immeasurable. We often hike in the woods or go to a museum or local festival. I always suggest we take a family selfie. My daughter thinks I just want to post on Facebook, but my real reason is because I love Pausing those few moments and breathing in the fact that we are spending time together.
We eat together as a family about five nights a week. On Fridays we eat take out or my husband makes pizza while we watch a movie; we have been enjoying Friday Family Movie Night for over a dozen years! The evenings we sit at the table together to share a meal, once everyone is present, we say Cheers! As we clink glasses, I set an intention that everyone will eat what is being served and there will be easy flowing conversation. Growing up my family did not say Grace, but I always liked the idea and I liked the times I did do it with other families. Occasionally during dinner, I will read from Eknath Easwaran's Your Life is Your Message. A few times our two oldest have read from it (after rolling their eyes); I believe the message of peace, love, and harmony is permeating their being even if they think their Mama is being hippie dippie. When possible, we eat alfresco! Dinner is also often a time when I feel triggered and having a routine helps me feel less stressed. It is difficult to make a meal everyone enjoys and my past struggles with worthiness often appear. There are times I forget to say Cheers! for weeks, but then I will remember, and it will fill me with Joy to have this ritual.
I wish I would have felt more confident in the past, especially when living in Minnesota, to cultivate deeper connections in my community. Here is a list of places and ways to engage. I know it can be a challenge, but I hope you are encouraged to reach out. I plan to take my own advice after this pandemic is over!
Places where you can meet people to engage:
- Be a mentor or sign up to get a mentor.
- Hang out at the library, farmers market or coffee shop.
- Take a class or learn a new skill like playing an instrument.
- Get a pet that you can take on walks.
- Get a part-time job at a store you like to shop at.
- Go to a book signing or other local festival or event that interests you.
- Volunteer in your community; schools are a great place to interact with others.
- Run a local road race or join a team. Not my cup of tea, but I know others who have made friends this way.
Ways to engage:
- Spark a dialogue with anyone.
- Write letters to a pen pal or share a journal with another in person or through the mail.
- Read a book with someone. I have the loveliest memories of my sister reading to me throughout my life, she even read to me when we were in our twenties briefly living together.
- Find commonality with others, share your story, listen to theirs.
- Offer your talents.
- Create traditions that require participation like a game night or cooking together.
- Ask open ended questions to others or for feedback or for suggestions.
- Host a Nurture Huddle or party.
How do you foster engagement?
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