As I enter my post-retirement life which so far has been nine days and counting, I am being reminded of a couple of things. One of the first is that life happens and from the vantage point of today, it happens quite quickly. Second, I am more convinced than ever of the need and the importance of connections.
Connections come in many forms Our first connections in life were with our family. They were the first ones that helped us to understand that we were a part of something, a family. Like ripples on a pond, our connections began to expand from the family unit, neighbors, friends, classmates, church friends, and then work colleagues and others we have met throughout our lives.
One of the things that show up continually is the importance of our social network. Many studies show that they provide us with not only a sense of being connected a network of social connections also leads to a sense of purpose, support, and better overall health. There seems to be a unanimous agreement that people who have fulfilling relationships with their family, friends, and members of the community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, and are more trusting and cooperative.
Yesterday was a day of connecting for Susanne and me. We drove from suburban Chicago to her hometown of Decatur, IL. Having breakfast at the hotel on Saturday morning I engaged in a conversation with a retired United Methodist pastor and spouse. He was in town for a celebration taking place at the church he pastored 60 years ago. We also saw a family from a local Nazarene church, the Church where we married 42 years ago this month. This family was in town for a funeral of a family member. I have known some of this family since the late 1970s. We had spent the day before with some of Susanne’s cousins and an aunt. It was a day to reconnect. We left the hotel and drove to the east to Chrisman Illinois. There we spent a couple of hours reconnecting with my best friend from college LaMar Hull. We laughed and picked up right where we had left off the last time we were together.
Another friend suggested that I write a book about retirement and what I discover in my first year of this adventure. I am taking notes and preparing to do just that. Let me give you a sneak peek.
Do not isolate yourself. Make friends, visit family, and renew old acquaintances. Since I have only been at this retirement for 9 days, I do have another observation. “Push away from the TV!” Social media and other forms of media are not your friends! We had a wonderful time this week eating pizza and apple cobbler with the pastor and his wife from a local church we are attending. He called and informed me it was “national Detroit syle pizza day.” Now if anything calls for celebration it has to be “national Detroit style pizza day.” My point is it does not have to be expensive. It just has to be tended to, this idea of staying connected. We are spending time in a condo. I have had multiple conversations with the new neighbors.
I know you are thinking you are a preacher and like to talk and like meeting people. I do plead guilty. Yet even the most bashful of us have connections. My need for making new connections is because I have temporarily moved away from a lot of my former community. I believe the research is correct we do better together than apart. So because I have moved away it is incumbent on me to reach out and make connections, or at the very least renew old connections.
The Bible speaks of this as well: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17) “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” (Proverbs 27:9)
- 1 Peter 4:8-9 – “Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
- Psalm 133: 1 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! “
We are made to have relationships. Someone today needs you, and you need someone today as well. One way to stay connected is to be an encourager. In and around where you and I live today there is more than enough anger and dissension. Be an encourage and yes stay connected.