My husband and I recently enjoyed a company trip to a beautiful Cancun resort. Upon arriving, we received bright green wristbands in our welcome packet. We were told to wear the wristbands at all times, especially to meals and group events to help identify ourselves as part of the group.
Early the next morning we went down for breakfast. As we proceeded down the long corridor to our ocean-side breakfast destination, I noticed a peculiar trend. People wearing green wristbands were smiling and greeting each other with a friendly recognition and, “Good Morning!” When there was no wristband, there was no greeting. The bearers of the band would literally walk by naked wrists, turn their heads the opposite direction and not even make eye contact. I watched throughout the day as complete strangers began conversation initiated by a green-wristband-association, while others wandered around in silence and avoidance. In the busy, populated beachfront resort, community was born with a color – a rubber bracelet – labeling and defining our connection. We were a group – a community. The public tag of “association” turned previous strangers into friends. Our trademark gave us an assurance that we had something in common and invited us to strike up a conversation. Courage from the rubber bracelet gave us a power to connect, share, converse, and exchange contact information.
Sadly, complete strangers riding the elevator, or lounging at the pool, would not be spoken to when there wasn’t the signal or invitation provided by the green wristband marking our newly formed conglomerate of familiarity. I watched as those with green bands initiated conversations in elevators but excluded those with no wristbands. The bearers of this green assembly walked past those without wristbands in the name of networking, community, and common purpose. The emerald bangle created an instant classification system garnering safety, comfort, recognition and community for those with the opportunity to adorn the trinket. But those without weren’t included. The friendly green-banded posse was an exclusive club.
The green wristbands inspired my own campaign. I decided that I would initiate conversation with those around me – green band or mostly not. The children made it easy. Talking to, smiling at, and playing with toddlers splashing at the pool was sure to lead to a new found friendship with their parents. We exchanged words, laughter, recommendations, ideas, and beautiful companionship. We talked about our lives – our homes, family, vocation, and the joys of our day. In every moment, regardless of location, skin color, nationality, language or green wristband, I made connections: the family from Mexico City on vacation with their friends and small children, the family from Brooklyn – where the relocated wife from Vietnam was missing her family back home, the family from Atlanta who shared their immigration story from Nigeria and exchanged entrepreneurial inspiration. For someone uncomfortable initiating small talk, I easily made some meaningful connections.
What were the lessons? What is the invitation? Connect with others!
Lesson 1: People want to connect. We crave connection and relationship. We want and need to belong. We are an interconnected, interdependent species that thrives in community. We tend to look for safe and familiar ways to create that connection. However, for many, that is not easy. Without the traditional markers of community association, we shy away from talking to strangers. In our fast-paced, high-tech digital world, high touch is a powerful prescription. Slow down, bring yourself into the present moment, and give it a try. Connect with those around you – in person. They likely long for personal connection as much as you do.
Lesson 2: You can always find something in common. You may look at others as strangers or simply people you just don’t know personally yet. Finding commonality is as simple as saying, “Hello.” To begin, just be who you are: reach out, shine your light, and smile. Make eye contact and speak with a simple greeting. Better yet, share an authentic expression of your experience. Look beneath the surface of things and connect with your essence. You are sure to find something you have in common. Maybe you overhear them using a beautiful name that you have an affinity for. Maybe you appreciate their conscious, gentle parenting style. Maybe you make eye contact by playing peek-a-boo with a toddler. Maybe you offer assistance, your service in opening a door, helping a stranger in need, or gifting something unique to the moment. It is likely that because you are in the same place at the same time, you will find something in common to build an association around, even if only temporary and transient in nature. And don’t stop with strangers. This is a great practice with your not-so-familiar friends and neighbors, the checker at your local grocery store, the waiter at your favorite restaurant, and the co-traveler on public transportation. Put down your excuses and artificial barriers and engage.
Lesson 3: Connection contributes to health, longevity, and a meaningful quality of life. Reaching outside of your comfort zone and entering the space of others, builds your psycho-social-spiritual muscles. It’s a practice that develops confidence, courage, compassion, and most importantly, unity. Finding the common humanity behind our differences is good for our individual and collective soul. Begin connecting with others as a routine spiritual practice. Your world will blossom with possibility, potential and greater well-being. The energy of creating new connections will attract more and life will begin flowing with ease and grace. Try it. Research shows that quality relationships and being in community increase your overall health, happiness, productivity, longevity and well-being. Its a win-win.
When I returned home from Cancun, I had a dream I started a green wristband campaign where I purchased thousands of wristbands and began giving them away to anyone who expressed an interest. I called it “Green Between Hearts.” Everyone organically began talking, making heart connections, sharing and building community. It was a beautiful dream. I’m holding that vision. Will you hold it with me? Let me know if you want a wristband, or two, or a hundred of them. I’ll get to work on it right away (smile).
A World of Love,
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