Our connection to one another exists, all we have to do us take the time to uncover it.
On the day of the total solar eclipse, I was standing on the Bridge to Nowhere, recognizing some neighbors and friends, but mostly seeing all the people I didn’t know. Clusters of people standing side by side, interacting and engaging in small talk, in anticipation of this “once in a life time event”. We were all there to focus on a single thing, a moment in time that had so much anticipation, I wasn’t sure it would be that amazing. But it was. And the incredible thing is it wasn’t just the solar eclipse that was amazing. For once, in what has felt like a really long time, people from all walks of life, all generations, all demographics, and all geographies came together to focus on one thing that we all wanted to experience. A thing that made us realize how really small we were and yet completed connected us at the same time. Strangers talking to strangers. Sharing. Connecting.
Charleston has always been a town of “Who’s your Daddy?” People striving to find a connection with one another. My parents were both outgoing and taught me, through observation, how to connect with people. Daddy always wanted to know “where are you from?” and even when he was older and frequently in the hospital, that was the first question he would ask his doctor and nurse. From then he could take the conversation anywhere! My mother was simply kind to people; “please and thank you”, a compliment, a smile, a shared laugh. One of my best friends will ask you where you went to high school (if you are from Charleston) or where do you live, because chances are she knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows you.
How different – more positive, more genuine – our life experiences are when we connect with each other along the way.
I recently had one of these deep connection moments that completely changed my experience. Not long ago, we were contacted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation about having our home photographed for their magazine, Preservation. A photographer was assigned to the project to come to our home to photograph the renovations completed on our 1915 foursquare home. While excited about this, I was also definitely anxious. There is a vulnerability in opening your home for others to see and critique. I am not a designer, I decorate based on how something makes me feel (and input from very close friends). So I did the best I could in preparation and awkwardly welcomed the (accomplished) photographer into our home. It really felt strange. Until we made that connection.
Giving him a tour of the home we paused on the back porch to look at the garden and 30+ camellias we are trying to grow in a fairly small space.” My aunt and uncle grow camellias,” he shared. “Who are they?” I asked, “and did you know my Daddy?” The dynamic completely changed. You see, this well known, accomplished photographer had photographed my Daddy’s camellia garden in 2006 for the winter addition of Charleston Magazine. He fondly remembered him as I started to cry. I pulled the magazine out and there it was, Peter Frank Edwards, photographer for “Camellias, The Southern Winter Bloom“.
Finding that connection changed the experience. All it took was a moment of being interested in someone else, being genuine, and being kind.
So, every now and then, put away that device. See what is happening around you. Ask someone how they are doing, where they are from, is there anything you can do to help? Smile, be kind, be present and watch what happens.