It starts with a hug.
So many things begin with the small act of connecting physically. Whether it is a casual high five, a brief hand on the shoulder, a firm handshake or a welcoming hug, human beings often begin things by touch.
I have not always been good with physical touch between people. Truth be told, it had taken me years to build a comfort with it, largely related to details of my childhood that have no real place here right now. I traditionally was a man for a firm handshake, if anything, I am not entirely sure why, but now I am actually quite fond of a hug. It comes from leaving my comfort zone often and venturing into the worlds of others, where you first engage in local customs and then adopt the best ones as your own. And so, Day 16 begins with a hug.
Brooke Williams knows how to hug, and she knows relationships. She is a counselor in Charleston specializing in relationships. Learning that, there are two things about this morning that didn't surprise me. She loved what I was doing and she had some questions. This whole idea fascinated her, the idea that a person would go out, meet people with no agenda and just tell a story, openly and plainly. She was eager to be a part of it, and I was more than happy to have her.
This is Brooke's year of adventure, a year where she decided to confront fears and embrace life. With a fear of heights, she tells me the story of her ascent at a ropes course, at least to the rope where she decided it was high enough. Her fear of heights fascinates me a bit because, while it may have kept her from the top of a ropes course, she has no fear of flying. Not the type of flying in an airplane, or the type o flying you experience by jumping out of one. Brooke has confronted a fear of flying that cripples so many, she has pursued her dreams.
This year she opened her own business, wrote a blog and started a podcast all about relationships. Brooke sees relationships as central to people, regardless of how they interact with the world. We need to connect with people, we are wired to do so from birth. It doesn't matter your religion, your political views, your color, race or creed, this is a universal truth. Relationships inspire, they guide and comfort, they sustain the spirit as surely as food does the body.
We talked at length about relationships, about the need to be open and vulnerable, to show the pulleys behind the curtain, the be your authentic self and to put aside your agenda. Brooke spoke about how when someone expresses a different view, even one she considers potentially dangerous, she feels compelled and interested to see how they got there. She is curious to know how they may be alike in so many ways, but different on that one point. It is part of the nurturing of a relationship she sees as so vital. She's right. She asks if I am following up with people, working to build relationships from connection.
We are about the same age, so we inevitably talk about the changing world through our different eyes. She is a mother, I have no children, and so it is interesting to see how we perceive events. We talk about the importance of pursuing dreams, of the need to put someone else's vision for your future away and move forward on your own. We talk about how important it is for you to define success for yourself and put away the "American dream" in favor of what you want. She asks me how to teach that to children.
I don't know.
The time with Brooke is truly incredible...and a little meta. Talking about building relationships while we are participating in a project about making connections is a tad surreal at times. It is an awesome experience and we both agree that more talks, more cups of coffee and more time are all in order. She pays me a huge compliment, about how I am doing what she asks her clients to do, what she wishes they would do more.
I started this project to meet 100 people, to tell the story of one person making 100 connections. I knew there would be changes in me, but I did not know how fast and how big they would be. I did not know how many friendships I would start, how many brilliant minds I would speak to, how many beautiful hearts I would get to see and how much I would eagerly await the talks with these new friends, the next chapter in our stories. it has changed my life and my perceptions in so many ways already.
Because Brooke was right, it is all about relationships.
Favorite DInosaur: T-Rex
Why: They're loud and awesome!
(Special credit to Brooke's 3 year old neighbor Easton for the assist.)