We all need to self-monitor when it comes to social media. But I recently saw something positive there, that made me glad I tuned in. It was a meme that changed my perspective and lifted me to a higher plane. It showed a young boy acting out, and simply said that he wasn’t trying to get attention, but connection.
As a former substitute teacher and as a mother of four, I often found myself observing kids and thinking they were trying to get attention. But now, looking through a whole new lens, I can see the problem was actually a feeling of being disconnected.
And that describes a huge chunk of today’s society as well. Loneliness is on the rise, and despite technology that allegedly connects us, we are more isolated than ever. Partly due to that, and partly due to the pandemic, we aren’t having face-to-face moments with others as often as before.
Real, live social interaction has been found to impact not only our mood, but our physical health. Experts say a lack of it can be more harmful to our bodies than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure. Having brief interchanges with others can lower anxiety and depression, can boost our immune system, can help us regulate our emotions, and can lead to higher self-esteem.
Attending church and the temple can provide much more than we realized, when we consider the importance of simply exchanging a smile or the squeeze of a hand. Knowing others care about us is validated much more by personal interaction than by electronic contact.
We can also make sure our children feel a sense of connection—that their feelings are valued, their quirks and silliness is welcomed, and the simple truth that they are children of God, is demonstrated. When children feel truly connected, they are less likely to act out. They already have your eyes and your ears. They are seen and heard, and know they can open up and be vulnerable with you.
Adults need the same—to be seen, heard, and valued. But often we wait for someone else to reach out and connect with us. A better idea is to be the connector: Be the one to reach out, yourself. It isn’t always easy, especially for the shy, but the other option is to sit alone and wait, a place where worry and lack of connection get magnified.
Albert Schweitzer once said, “Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.” We can all think of someone we are so grateful for, who helped us at a dark moment. But let’s also remember to be the one who can blow that flame for someone else as well.
This week I went shopping for a pair of pants. I took four pairs into the dressing room where I quickly realized that between Covid and a recent vacation, I was no longer that size! Disheartened, I went outside to choose some a size larger. Never a delightful experience, right?
But standing there with his mother, was a cute little smiling boy, about two years old. “Hi there,” I said, “How old are you?”
“Eight,” he said. His mom winked and I smiled. Then she helped him say, “two” and hold up two fingers.
I smiled and told him what a wonderful, big boy he is becoming. And as I walked off he called out, “Happy Birthday!” It wasn’t my birthday, but it was the kindest thing that boy could think of. He’s too young to say, “Have a nice day,” or a similar sentiment. So, he simply reached into his heart for the best wish, and tossed it my way.
And it changed me. I realized it doesn’t matter what size I wear; it matters that we make connections with one another, even strangers. Kindness. Forgetting oneself. Chatting, even if only for a few seconds. What an awesome kid.
We are so blessed, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to have opportunities every month to connect with those we’re assigned to minister to. What a gift—for both of us! Another terrific opportunity to connect is when we do Family History and Temple work. It’s the chance to feel a spiritual connection that’s often more impactful than a face-to-face one. Again, what a gift for both of us!
There are so many other ways to connect and feel useful to others. Let the Primary President know you’re willing to substitute in a class whenever the teacher is absent. Let the Relief Society President know you’d like to bring a meal or help in some other way when someone is ill or bereaved.
Join a new club, get involved in local politics, volunteer at a charity that touches your heart. Choose something from justserve.org. Not only will you enjoy the activity, but all the new people you’ll meet. Reach out to your neighbors and offer to watch their pets, bring in their trash, and help out. Make a list of kind services you can do for people in your area. And don’t be too proud to accept help from others. They need to feel connection, too.
Best of all, we can connect with our Father in Heaven by keeping a prayer in our heart, reaching out to him as we go about our day, and not just when we kneel for a formal prayer. Knowing we are trying our best to live worthy of the Holy Ghost’s influence also makes us feel connected.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband said, “Our testimonies connect us to the heavens, and we are blessed with ‘the truth of all things.’ And, like pioneers protected by a fortress, we are safely encircled in the arms of the Savior’s love.” What a beautiful, celestial connection.
Hilton’s book, A Little Christmas Prayer, is the perfect Christmas gift. Sometimes it takes a child to raise a village, and this tale teaches anyone, of any faith, the magic of gratitude. All her books and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website.