Community Connections

"Navy Returns to Compasses and Pencils to Help Avoid Collisions at Sea"

The above is a headline in today's The New York Times.  Basically, the Navy is going back to, well, basics: sailors getting more sleep, spending more time on ship maintenance, employing basic seamanship.

It seems that all professions have the tension between the use of technology and the basic, common skills that have been used over time.   

When I was employed at a well-known teaching hospital, I was in a training program for working with critically ill patients. During one of the classes, the instructor gave wise words: "Always check the patient."  

She went on to tell us the story: When she was a newly trained critical care nurse she was very enthusiastic and diligent to do exactly as she was instructed.  On one of her rounds she dutifully kept an eye on the cardiac monitor.  To her shock, she witnessed the monitor showing that the patient was experiencing ventricular tachycardia- extremely fast heart rhythm.  The first response to that problem is to shock the heart back into regular rhythm and can be done so by a whack on the chest.  The nurse ran into the room, went to the patient's side and "thumped" a hard fist in the middle of the man's chest.  He sat bolt upright,  "What the [expletive} do you think you are doing?"  

Turns out he had been sleeping.

As she reminded us, technology is a great tool but never forget your basic assessment of patients.

I have felt that our culture needs to remember the basics of human interaction. We are all too quick to allow technology to overshadow or replace our role as social beings.

Over the last couple of days I have been able to use my bicycle to accomplish some errands.  It has been beautiful fall weather and peddling through the streets noticing the mums, pumpkins and turning leaves has been a treat.

One thing that I have always noticed when I cycle, is how connected I feel to my fellow pedestrians and those who are out and about sans l'automobile.  In a car, I am so isolated. I barrel down the road and don't really get a chance to interact with anybody.  Yet on my bicycle as I meander through town I can aid the woman confused over a street address or buy a sandwich for the man down on his luck or smile and wave at the toddler tentatively waving in her stroller.

My interactions aren't earth shattering.  Just a connectedness with other human beings. Yet I am back to basics- communing with people as we were traveling around. 

One of my stops was at a local coffee shop to enjoy a cup of joe and to soak up the ambiance. As I sat there, I overheard a couple of conversations. In each grouping the dialogue may have been different but the theme was the same: community, spending quality time with one another and being authentic in our relationships. 

It seems as if  I hear more and more people expressing their tiredness with being a faceless entity- an initial or first name post among many other faceless posts. They want to be known for their individuality.  They want to go back to the way people use to interact. They want to be known.

On one hand, the computer and the global network has connected us with long-lost friends and family and has connected us with new friends in different cultures.  But the technology era has also ushered in more isolation and with that, despair and depression.  Try as we might to avoid it, we are designed to live in community. 

I certainly have had my fair share of not wanting community.  I have been known to duck down another aisle in the grocery store just to avoid talking to someone I know.  If I had my druthers, I would probably sit in isolation and only communicate by banging out texts and notes to people.  Yet, I also know that when I don't engage with others, I miss out.  I miss their immediate reactions to statements.  I miss out on immediate feedback.  I miss out on perspective, where do my thoughts fit into the big scheme of things? 

My bicycle jaunts have me engage more with my surroundings.  I find that I like it.  My community engagements are not long encounters.  They are not overly deep. At least for now.  Yet there is always something I get out of the encounters, some new idea or thought or outlook. I hope that is true too for the person encountering me.

I feel that I am getting back to basics, employing the foundational elements that connect us as humans:  building community.

What about you?  Do you ever feel the need to get back to basics?  To spend some time with the people around you?  Do you have the opportunity to interact with strangers?  To share a small greeting?  What is preventing you? Do you have time in your life to occasionally slow down when you do your errands? To bike or walk to get groceries, coffee or milk? Could you try it once a week, once a month, once a quarter?  If you did get back to basics, what would be your headline? 

"Cyclist Returns to Interacting With Previously Unknown Individuals to Build Community."