July 31, 2013
“So…you are like an athletic coach?” The 93 year old woman asked me yesterday in the in Produce Specialties aisle at Publix Grocery.
I explained that I had transitioned from my role as an art therapist to a Professional Coach.
“Like sports?” She continued, eager to fully understand.
“No…I work with people who have a willingness to improve and enhance their professional and personal lives – to nurture healthy relationships with co-workers or family relations.”
“Ohhh!” She brightened. “So you make connections in relationships.” She confirmed, her sparkling indigo eyes smiled.
“Yes. Connections. And relationships. Those are highly important to me.”
“Me too!” She smiled. “I used to be a social worker in Massachusetts, so this is very intriguing to me.”
I studied this vibrant woman whom I had just met less than two minutes ago. She was with her aid, a CNA – Certified Nursing Assistant, Sherry, whom I had known for 6 years. Sherry had lovingly cared for a woman with whom I had facilitated art therapy sessions for over 7 years. When our beloved Rose passed, we consoled one another through sobbing wordless nods. I had not seen Sherry since Rose’s memorial.
This is my new ‘Rose,” she announced proudly as if showing off a new born baby.
The 93 year old gracious woman, named Grace, said she hoped she would be half as admired as Rose.
And in the Produce aisle in Publix, I got to thinking about relationships and connections.
At 93 years old, Grace was still making connections, and cultivating new relationships. And there was a passion I picked up immediately from Grace: to make connections, to continue to learn and grow…to not stop until understanding is reached. Grace was a “relationship thriver.” I believe her 93 year-old purpose was to flourish as a connector.
Grace cares deeply about making meaningful sense of things in her life.
I believe the desire to connect is innate. Certainly we see that desire manifested online.
But there is a subtle difference between connecting online and connecting face-to-face (F2F). It prompted this question in my mind:
How can one tell if one is mindfully present online?
I am sure there are subtleties and nuances that the culture of Millenials and Digital Natives understand. In my Psychology of Social Interaction class this past spring, we examined and compared social behaviors online and face-to-face.
We discovered that virtual language and F2F communication are from different planets.
And while many ages are now text-savvy, has that savviness put us in a socially isolated predicament – where we are so arms length from one another that we have forgotten - or worse – never learned - how to engage the human spirit?
Have we painted ourselves in an emoticoned corner where our happy smiles, hearts and thumbs up are the only ways in which we communicate our appreciation and loving thoughts?
I found myself so refreshingly engaged with seeing Sherry and meeting the intriguing Grace. There is nothing like seeing the sparkle in wise eyes, witnessing her authentic interest in what we were saying by the way she stood up a little straighter and leaned forward on her walker. Her voice inflection took on a richer tone. She gestured with her hands. She was animated. Sherry and I hugged. Grace and I physically touched one another when we shook hands.
I could see Grace breathe beneath her beautiful Monet-like painting on her soft blue and pink blouse.
Yet, I cannot see my friends breathe on face book. I can’t tweet a real hug.
Even if Apple or Galaxy GS came out with 30 more icons and emoticons, I still don’t think we would have this kind of connection. The energy transmitted in our human race exchange is far more powerful than the energy output from any tech app.
Consider your communication patterns for one day to determine if your virtual communication outweighs your F2F. Notice the disparity. Ask yourself in which exchange do you think you are more comfortable and why.
Which connection feels better?
What will you do with that feeling?
Next time you find yourself bumping into a familiar face in the Specialty Produce aisle – at what F2F human specialties will you pause to look?