Human connection is an energy exchange between people who are paying attention to one another. It has the power to deepen the moment, inspire change and build trust especially during this year when we have all had to rely heavily on adapting to uncertainties and anomalies. Much has changed between a coronavirus pandemic, world poverty on the rise, natural disasters, a 45 day war in Nagorno Karabagh and an unsettling situation in Armenia, not to mention climate changes and global unrest under authoritarian leaderships. And to top it all, a forced distancing from loved ones during these days of traditional family gatherings. Is it any wonder that I felt a wave of nostalgia hit me as we approached Thanksgiving? What might have been a possibility that 30 or so family and relatives who, under normal circumstances would travel from near and far to gather around our humble table of blessings is now obsolete. I do miss the celebrating and reconnecting; getting caught up on one another’s lives, reminiscing and browsing through old photographs, reminding us of special times and helping us keep track of what has changed and what has remained the same in our lives — and in ourselves.
I come from a profoundly social family and I feel the need for that human connection embedded in my biology and history. The ease with which technology connects me with updates about members of the family and friends afar somehow does not quell my drive for the human connection. Interestingly, I am not alone in this. The human species throughout its evolutionary history is dependent on one another. But ironically, in today’s adapted lifestyle, our physical health depends largely on our adherence to staying apart physically, and our mental health depends on our willingness and ability to stay connected emotionally. At times like these, the latter is difficult given the former. And while I am not alone, I feel the disconnect.
A phone call I received put the necessity of human connections into perspective. A gentleman who happened to be a keynote panelist on a zoom conference that I had moderated called to let me know of the many members of my family whom he had come to meet and know while working in different parts of the world, informing me that our connection dated back to over 20 years. We fell into an animated conversation connecting the people from Dubai, Beirut, Kuwait, Italy, Toronto, and Los Angeles and their relations to each of us. I found myself remembering the years of simpler times with those who played important roles in my life. In those moments, I realized that our sense of who we are is closely related to how we connect ourselves in relationship to others. His call strengthened a sense of social connectedness by helping me appreciate what my family has meant to others as well as what others have meant to us. His words of acknowledgment for members of my family heightened the sense of social validation that comes from knowing that each of us is someone’s daughter or son, mother or father, sister or brother and the bonds we share with those we love survive physical separation. I felt their memories reawaken and embrace me.
Am I still nostalgic today on Thanksgiving Day? Yes. Nostalgic reminiscence helps me maintain a sense of continuity despite the constant flow of change we are undergoing. It is reassuring to realize how rich my life has been – how much joy, hard work, success and excitement I have experienced through the human connections.
This Thanksgiving, my grateful heart sweeps like a magnet over the days connecting reasons for gratitude. While I am indebted to the Power Above for all infinite number of divine gifts received, I am equally indebted to the gifts of human kindness from numerous human connections. In the words of writer and historian George Matthew Adams, “There is no such thing as a self-made man. We are all made up of thousands of others. Anyone who has ever done a kind deed for us or spoken one word of encouragement for us, has entered into the makeup of our character and of our thoughts as well as our success.”
In the shuffle of humanity, may I never lose the awareness that I am the result of an infinite number of divine gifts, numerous human connections with a show of human kindness.