Hey, Connect! By Jack Toronto
Do you need more joy in your life?
Would you like to increase your effectiveness at work, at home and at play?
No more lonely nights sitting all alone, All you go to do is…GET OUT THERE AND CONNECT!
“But how, Jack?” I hear someone ask. It’s a woman’s voice. Vancouver is notorious as a bad place to connect for anything deeper than a one night stand. And I use the word, “stand” loosely. Women looking for a serious relationship (now I hear guys sniggering at “serious relationship”) routinely give up on Vancouver and head to Toronto or Montreal to connect with a man with a heart and a mind that are both above his belt line.
True, Sweetheart. May I call you Sweetheart? But before we consider connecting for long-term romantic relationships, enduring ties with relatives and friends and world peace, let’s start with baby steps. Step one is connecting spontaneously for split seconds and then working up to a few minutes. All it takes is practice. Maybe I can help. I took my baby steps in Ghana in January, 1967. My first ever Afro News piece included the following:
“For three months I was uncomfortable extending myself to establish personal ties with market vendors, clerks in banks and stores and government offices and strangers who called out greetings in the street… When I overcame shyness and began to ask people about their families, to talk about my family and to call out my own spontaneous greetings I was welcomed in a way that overcame culture shock and wrapped me in a love and caring that I never imagined was there.”
It’s harder to connect here because you usually have to take the initiative. In Ghana I just needed to respond to constant greetings. But here is one Vancouver example when all I had to do was respond. As background you need to know that I play trombone in The Carnival Band. We play gigs all around Vancouver and take pride in wearing outrageous costumes. At 5:45 a.m. on the last Sunday of June, wearing gold pantaloons, I was carrying my horn along West Hastings Street on my way to the Canada Line station to get out to The University of British Columbia by 7:00 to play for runners in the Scotiabank Half Marathon. A slim figure lugging a binner’s trademark black garbage bag crossed the street ahead of me and by the time I reached her she had laid her haul on the steps of an office building. When I came up she held up an unopened box of No-Name Cheerios and said, “Look at this. If I find some milk I’m stylin’!” Best conversation starter I’ve ever heard so I stopped to chat. Out came two small unopened packages of dried fruit. “I’ve been up all night. Not many empties but I’m gonna eat.” I can’t remember what I said but my day came to life as we shared our few minutes together. As we parted I said, “I’m John.” “I’m Angel. Not many people stop to talk with me but you give me hope.”
I wasn’t trying to give hope. I was feeding off her spirit.
Why is it hard to connect? We each wear a mask to present ourselves to others as we want to be perceived. People connect only when the masks come off. That’s why we love to interact with young children. They have not developed masks so adults can drop their own and connect with open trust. Angel can’t afford a mask so she can’t pretend to be anything other than what she is. Maybe my pantaloons marked me as somebody without much dignity to preserve and that encouraged Angel to open up. We feel vulnerable without our masks and are afraid to let them go. Remember baby steps – a quick word of encouragement and thanks to a harried checkout clerk, offering to help a tourist who seems to be lost, chatting for thirty seconds with an angel.
World peace, maybe. Inner peace, definitely.