Connections mean more than ever

Alan Smyth /

Thanks to Deputy Editor Janet Stevens for her excellent column on our less-connected society.

So we are less connected. So what?

Well, suppose Joe (or Jane) has been part of your bowling league (or hunting group, or sewing circle, or church team, etc.) for some time. One day, Joe does not show up.

“Wonder where Joe is? Maybe we should check on him.”

Maybe Joe just forgot, but maybe Joe is lying on the floor with a broken hip, or unconscious because he forgot his medication. Being part of the group just might save Joe’s life.

The book “Bowling Alone” documents the sad fact that fewer of us are connected with other nearby people these days. Electronic media can be a huge asset, but they can rob us of human contact. Facebook friends may be far away. Or maybe there are so many friends that you would not notice if Joe’s daily posting is missing.

Would you phone or drop by to see why Joe did not contact you today? Also, as Stevens wrote, too often we see families or friends who are out “together” with earbuds shoved in their ears, or doodling on iPhones, each in their own world rather than sharing together in any way.

In bygone days, our back-fence neighbors might snoop on us intrusively. But they also might be glad to help us move the sofa, or if we were old and tottery, they might change a ceiling light bulb or even help us with household chores. That neighborly help kept lots of folks in their own homes rather than in assisted- living places.

An actual example: Sam was unfairly fired from his job by a mean boss. He vented his anger to a close friend. The friend listened and helped calm him. So instead of returning to the boss with a loaded shotgun, Sam simmered down and started looking for another job.

Another benefit of human connections is potential support of marriages. In fortunate situations, the relatives of the bride and groom can give guidance and support to both their child and the spouse.

I remember one mother saying to her son, “If you split up with Sally, we will throw you out and keep our daughter-in-law. Grow up and be an adult!”

Such strong guidance has saved lots of marriages after the initial romantic infatuation wears off.

My wife and have lived mostly in small towns. If your plumbing needed repair, the plumber might not charge for labor. But when his roof needed help, the neighbor whose plumbing he fixed might repair the roof without charge. A large amount of work was done between neighbors without much money changing hands.

My dad lived in a small town most of his life. The town needed a certain senator to help enact a law to benefit our town. Dad did not visit the senator. Instead he took me, his small son, with him far out in the country on a dirt road to visit a little old lady. He’d been a close friend to this lady for many years, and he knew that she was the senator’s beloved aunt who had helped raise him. Dad had a nice chat with the lady. The law was passed.