I looked up and a man was standing over me. I was laying down. Then I was moving. I can’t remember now what the man was saying to me. Everything was fuzzy.
Before that, the last thing I remembered was getting my 3 daughters in the car and driving down the street away from the drive-in movie theater. That’s the last thing I remember.
Then suddenly I was waking up in the E.R. Alone. As I was rolled into my room my pastor was there and a close friend. They started to tell me about what happened. My car had been hit by a drunk driver. My girls were okay. I was okay.
Looking back…this is literally the most alone I had ever been. Unconscious. My young daughters without anyone. My husband was out of town and unreachable by phone.
And my people came around me and my girls. A friend came to get my girls from the crash site and take them to the E.R. She brought them to see me, took them to her house to spend the night, and helped them talk through what had happened.The prayer chain was called at church to pray for us. Another friend brought me clothes to wear, the next day, and took me home from the hospital. Another friend picked my mom up from the airport. Another friend brought us dinner on the night that I came home from the hospital. And friend after friend let me process my thoughts and offered to help.
I could do nothing for myself or my daughters. All of my family was out of town. My community of friends came around us and took care of everything.
Did you know that the percentage of Americans that say they are lonely has doubled since the 1980s? The New York Times did an article in December about how social isolation is impacting our health and well being in the United States. They stated evidence after evidence about the damage social isolation does to us.
Just this weekend, my husband and I were noticing how challenging it can be to connect with friends in the midst of our schedules and the coming and going of life.
I noticed, yesterday with sadness, myself doing the “I’m Fine” chatter with another mom at my girls’ school without saying anything meaningful.
So what can we do to overcome the challenge of busy schedules, distance, and our own personalities to truly connect and build community.
Here are 5 Time Hacks for Connecting and Making Friends:
1) Standing Date:
Sometimes the only way to truly make something happen is to have a standing date for something. Like every Friday night or once a month getting together with friends for pizza. Or having a standing date to go running with a friend. When something is built into our schedules, it makes it hard not to follow through. Make a standing date to send out cards to friends that are sick or struggling on Monday mornings. Don’t let yourself skip it.
2) Connect in Ways that are Easy:
Find ways to let your friends know that you are thinking of them, praying for them, or are willing to help them out with something. More often then not I find myself using text to a let a friend know I am thinking of them. Some may say that’s a cop out, but I say if it means you are more likely to let someone know you care- go with it. (I just picked up my phone to text a friend to check in on them- #coachingthelifecoach).
It is not natural for me to just pick up the phone and call someone. But I have a friend that is so quick to pick up the phone to check-in or ask a question. And I have to say it means so much. If she suspects something is wrong, I know she will be on the phone to check on me. Don’t think about calling someone- just do it. You don’t have to talk long but it can mean so much.
3) Don’t Do the “I’m Fine” Dance:
I am regularly in situations where I just have a couple of minutes to chat. In those situations, it’s so easy to default to the “I’m Fine” chatter. Don’t do it. Think of a few go to questions that help you to connect with a friend in a way that can be meaningful. Or if you know you are going to see someone and will be tempted to do the “I’m fine” chatter with them, think in advance about something that is happening in their life that you want ask about.
Some go-to conversational questions are:
What’s something good or bad that has happened to you in the last week?
Have you seen any good movies or been to any good restaurants lately?
You make your schedule look so easy, how do you do what you do?
4) Join a Meetup or Club with a Purpose:
Take advantage of an interest that you would like to cultivate, a class you would like to take, or an activity you think you would enjoy doing with a friend. Then do it. Invite a friend to go hiking with you. Take a painting class. Meet up with a group that is interested in discussing movies. Become a part of a moms group. The possibilities are endless. It may seem challenging to endure that awkward moment to start something new. But the rewards are exponential.
5) Make a goal:
If you see yourself struggling to make time to connect socially, make a goal. Be intentional about what you want to change. Pinpoint what barrier you have to making that change. Then formulate a plan for making the change. Ask your spouse or someone else to keep you accountable to make the change.
What are your go to ways to connect with friends? How do you make the most of your time with your friends? What do you do to make new friends?