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A Little Sweetness Goes A Long Way
The Recipe To Building Relationships When You're A Little Awkward
Many of us already know the importance of building community and can do so naturally. But for those who are a little more reserved, how do you create that for your family—especially during a pandemic when the more natural ways of meeting people, developing friendships and nurturing relationships are less available?
It definitely makes things more difficult, but it’s still important to do. Living isolated is fine for a while, but it’s not wonderful for our psyches. We all need our circle of trust, those in our lives we can go to for anything. We need to share, to have fun, to see other faces. We need interactions to help us develop and keep us in check; people to turn to in times of celebration and times of need.
Creating community can only happen if we are willing to take the risk of putting ourselves out there and then follow through on building relationships. It requires a little courage and vulnerability. Not something that comes easily for some. Sometimes we need an in-road.
Early in our marriage, we were fortunate that we had a built-in network of close friends from college that lived in the area. We spent lots of time together and even went on a few vacations. But as we all started having children it got more difficult to incorporate them into our daily lives. Our kids were different ages, our schedules didn’t always match up and they lived just far enough away that a quick cup of coffee wasn’t always easy to grab. Things had to be planned, orchestrated. While we remain close and our lives intertwine our kids did not grow up seeing their kids as often as we’d have liked. We discovered we needed a broader group of friends.
It was hard for us to create that community. We live pretty remotely in a wooded, rural area. It’s not filled with kids running from house to house or playing in a nearby park. There are no over-the-fence conversations and kids from school couldn’t just pop over. But, we did have a bus stop.
Granted we did have other places to congregate and meet people, but for 16 years that was our little neighborhood place. And 16 years at a bus stop creates a lot of memories. I still smile every time I drive by. We spent a lot of time there. It was a few miles from our house so we had to drive. And wait. Sometimes several times a day when my kids were in three different schools. Each wait was an opportunity to build and deepen friendships. We chatted, played soccer, catch, tag and helped kids climb trees. We relied on each other when someone was running late or needed a ride. We became friends.
"Something about the cookies breaks down walls, even with the surliest of teenagers."
One day I decided to initiate “Cookie Friday” (I could do it because I worked from home). Every Friday I made and brought cookies to the afternoon bus stop. Each week the kids were so excited—their looks of expectation were priceless. Even as the kids got older and moved onto middle and high school they would return to the same designated spot each week to claim their treat and have a little chat. It was amazing what it did for the camaraderie. People tended to linger longer, talk more and get deeper.
Something about the cookies breaks down walls, even with the surliest of teenagers. It might just be the power of junk food. But maybe, just maybe, it was the power of connection and the idea that someone thought to do something for them each week, just because.
The bus stop is no longer needed in our family, but I still make the cookies for my daughters and their friends. Whether it’s a Friday or it’s a personalized batch for a special occasion. They still hit the same. They still create connections. They still make people feel special. They still get people to open up. And now they’ve also gotten me a special moniker because I take the time to bake…and to listen.
Who knew it would build such a sense of community? We’re still friends with the bus stop bunch today—sharing our lives whenever we can whether it’s around a dinner table or when we see each other on the road. We have a special bond having gone through those times together and making the effort to forge friendships.
The cookies also helped solidify something else in my kids; a sense of giving. They are in tune with their people, often doing sweet things for friends in times of need or celebration or just because. I especially love it when they make cookies for their friends. I feel like it’s our little legacy.
If you’re longing for connection give it a try. Reach out and do something to show others you’re thinking of them. You don’t have to go to the extent of cookie Friday. Or bake.
It can be anything that shows you care. A little thoughtfulness goes a very long way. And in this time of unique need, it’s also pretty great medicine.
I have my daughter’s kindergarten teacher to thank for the special recipe we adapted so long ago. Enjoy!
Be kind to yourselves and others.
Until next time,