The last few weekends have been a blur of family birthdays, church activities, summertime backyard get-togethers, anniversaries, sporting event parties (e.g. the World Cup) and local events. I intended to get another post out here after 7 days and it’s already been almost twice that. But I’ve been a better steward of truing up my notes over time and keeping thoughts down somewhere so that I can find trends and build stories.
The story that emerged was that we’ve been stretched thin with summer activities. And all the fun has distracted us from the promise of getting a weekly post accomplished. But I’ve learned the value of keeping notes and noticed something interesting about connecting at a real level with both families and friends through these activities.
The interesting, and maybe obvious thing, is that small, intimate, spontaneous gatherings are a heck-of-a lot more satisfying than the planned, crowded, larger party variety get-togethers.
We had several large planned events surrounding family birthdays and anniversaries. The months of June/July are crammed with birthdays in both families. We wanted to combine some of the birthdays to reduce the number of planned events, but that didn’t happen. We’re married late in life with no kids. When events get scheduled, it’s rare that they happen at our house. One birthday was sort of a combination of both a small, intimate gathering and a planned surprise that we helped coordinate. (My dad turned 70, so we wanted to do something special). It was fun because we picked him up early, took him to breakfast in St. Anthony outside overlooking the Mississippi and then his wife and my half brother showed up and “surprised” him. Then we all boarded Segways and took a history tour of downtown Minneapolis along the river. It was great because we got to spend some one on one time with dad, asking him questions about life and living. We were able to ask questions that require more than surface level answers. Then we got to do something fun together. And I snapped a photo of the perfect “dad face” as he was being trained on how to ride the Segway. Everybody remembers a particular “dad face”. You’re thinking of the one your dad gives you right now….admit it.
Contrast that to trying to get everybody together at once. We’ve done it this way several times with both families and friends. We had good times, but we didn’t learn much about what was going on with others. There was too much activity going on to really connect with other people by sharing dreams, praying, and providing encouragements.
Last weekend, I was going to write up a post when we were pinged by my uncle from Georgia who emailed me at the last minute to let me know he’d be close by. He wondered if we were available for him to stop and visit. Sure we had a bunch of stuff going on, but we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to really connect with someone and we were happy to put aside the typical Saturday grocery shopping and clean up chores to make up a light lunch and enjoy 2 hours of quality face time. Spending a couple hours, spontaneously with someone where we shared personal stories, pains, triumphs, prayers and dreams was food for our souls.
We felt that God used this to teach us that we need to be more intentional about connecting with others this way. We’re really glad that my uncle modeled a very positive and meaningful activity that we didn’t realize how desperately we needed.
And what was really cool was this wasn’t just a one-way street. My uncle turned to us at one point and said how much our conversation was a confirmation and encouragement for him over stuff that God has been talking to him about.
We’re not going to stop going to large party get-togethers, but we are going to be more intentional about one on one face time with friends and family. So far this summer, the big highlights are dominated by the smaller, intimate invitations that we’ve accepted and the ones we’ve extended to others. I can picture in my mind the specific instances that will stand out in 2010: tasting whiskey with Sank at Blake Lake and the loon calling out, making friends with a Burmese immigrant on a Mississippi boat ride and watching her gaze across the expanse of the Mississippi while her eyes teared up and she got emotional describing what it was like escaping Myanmar over the Salween River, eating waffles with dad in St. Anthony, going to ball games with my brother-in-law, my dad and my wife and letting the new ball park be a backdrop to meaningful conversations, eating homemade pizza with Lisa and my buddy Tork, leaving work an hour early to sit outside downtown with my co-worker, stopping at mom’s with a pizza and visiting, and having dinner with the Hager family in Lakeville.
Being real has made for the best of times.