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  • Writer's pictureJudy

Sept. 24, 2023: Building Connections

It was a sunny Saturday morning and I was struggling with a choice…do I attend the Writer’s Workshop I had penciled in on my calendar, or take advantage of the beautiful weather and get outside to my gardens, which were in desperate need of some weeding and TLC.

The workshop was at the library branch that was a 45-minute drive from me, which fell in the don’t go column. The facilitator was one I had met before. She was an engaging speaker and has years of experience in writing and publishing. I knew I would leave with some nuggets of wisdom and inspiration. That added a reason in the go column. But after a busy week of constant teaching, the possibility of being in the company of plants instead of people went into the don’t go column.

Writers are a quirky and interesting group. Most of our work is done in isolation, so I think as a group, we tend to be more introverted than extroverted. I acknowledge that I have no scientific data to back this up, just anecdotal data and personal observations. However, that means that there is almost always the inner struggle prior to attending or signing up for a formal gathering. At least for me.

Attending the event won out, and I am glad it did, even though it ate up a good chunk of my Saturday. As I expected, the presentation was engaging and insightful; the conversations and discussions with other attendees broadened my thinking; and I left feeling like I had grown my writer’s village through new connections.

I was thinking about that workshop this past week when my elementary school was celebrating “Start With Hello” Week. A week which is a national call-to-action, focused on helping young people make connections and grow that feeling of belonging.

While this week was designed to help fight the social isolation that many children feel, I started to think about my college students as well. The class I am teaching at the university this term has 80 students, and more than half are transfer students from other universities and colleges, so a great many are new to the school and the community. Building those social connections will be critical to their college success. And their emotional health.

People, both adults and children, who do not have a strong network of social connections on which they can rely when they struggle, can easily feel overwhelmed, helpless, and even hopeless. These precursors to depression can be difficult to deal with alone.

I used to view our social connections as concentric circles around us. The people in our lives placed in the ring that visually represents how close they are to us. Immediate family/best friends, all the way out to acquaintances, with lots of rings in between.

I now prefer to think of our social connections as a web, with each of us connected to others, some close, others further away. Each in turn is also connected to so many others. This visual then forms a web. This web can represent a safety net that can help to hold us up during times of challenge and setbacks. This net can help us to build the resilience that is so important to navigate the ups and downs of life.

When I think of my students, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my neighbors, acquaintances, and others, I realize that our social webs are also connected. Strength in one person’s web can transfer to strength in the webs of those around them. Which in turn, can help others.

So in this week devoted to building those social connections, be sure to reach out and add to yours.

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