I just finished this months Book Club book:  “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown, PhD.  One of the many things that struck me was the significance she put on the need for connection.  She defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”  Yep, that’s it.  Furthermore, she says that we are “hard wired” for connection.  It’s in our biology.

She goes on to say, “Our innate need for connection makes the consequences of disconnection that much more real and dangerous.  Sometimes we only think we are connected. ”  In today’s age of social media, we think we are connecting, and on some level I think we are…. but nothing can replace the true connectedness we feel when we look someone in the eye and share with them, when we can see in their face that they are truly “getting us”.

When I was in the planning stages of the Alley Cat Cafe someone told me I needed a “Tag Line”.  I had just finished reading a book called:  “The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and other Hang Outs at the Heart of a Community”  by Ray Oldenburg .  In it he explains the importance of having a third place which he describes as places, “ where people can gather, put aside the concerns of work and home, and hang out simply for the pleasures of good company and lively conversation – (these places) are the heart of a community’s social vitality and the grassroots of democracy.”.  My Tag Line is ‘A Place To Gather’.

Brene Brown says, “One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on ‘going it alone.’  Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone.”

During this weeks book discussion group I was thinking about how I’ve seen a drastic drop in how many people stay and ”hang out” or “gather” in the last few months.  Lately customers come in, get their coffee and go on their way.  I started to think about the struggles that we are experiencing in our little town, like many places in the country; loss of jobs, hours being cut, funding being cut…. lack, lack, lack!

Is our fear of vulnerability keeping us from reaching out? Are we all silently struggling alone?  Are we doing the exact opposite of what we need to do to make it through this?  Are we isolating instead of connecting?

Dr. Brown continues by saying, “The Wholehearted journey is not the path of least resistance.  It’s a path of consciousness and choice.  And, to be honest, it’s a little counter-culture.  The willingness to tell our stories, feel the pain of others, and stay genuinely connected in this disconnected world is not something we can do halfheartedly.  To practice courage, compassion, and connection is to look at life and the people around us, and say, ‘I’m all in.’”

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