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June 6, 2024

Making Connections

Profile image for Jessica Duffy

Good Practice Mentor

Aren’t random connections lovely? They tend to make my day…

For me they mostly come from having lived in one place for a while (all right, 30 years!). You might think it was in a little village, and we all know our neighbours, but no! – it’s a big city and I know almost none of my close neighbours, because they are students and they all move house every year. It turns out that Leeds clearly has a population of only a couple of hundred real people (The rest are just simulacrums – isn’t that how the theory goes?) and I bump into them on a regular basis. My most spectacular random connection recently was meeting someone at a conference who turned out to have a child at my daughter’s new 6th form college.  We thought that was pretty good as there are only 70 of them at college, and neither of us was in our home city.

Of course this is just fun, we haven’t built a new friendship on it; but still, it did cheer our day, give us something to go home and chat about.

Lots of the work Ageing Better did was around the importance of ‘bumping places’. That’s just a fancy planner’s term for those places we bump into each other: bus stops, the park, the shops, the library. It turns out that meeting people in those places, some of whom we might get to know better, and others who will remain nodding acquaintances, means people feel connected to their community – and feeling connected is important.

My teenagers definitely don’t understand this, but my parents did just the same thing: there always seemed to be someone they knew. We hated it then, but now I know how it happens and why people like it. It’s all about feeling safe, and putting down roots, and maybe going out and about less. Doing more things on line makes this harder to do. Perhaps this is one reason some younger people are finding things hard right now. There are compensations I know – you might find your tribe in electronic bumping places which I wouldn’t know how to navigate – but as humans we do need to make those connections somehow.

Think about soap operas… they always work around those bumping places, where mysteriously everyone ends up. Village shops, laundrettes and pubs might go bust in real life but never in soap operas – they need bumping places for their plot. Your own life may not be quite as fast-paced as a soap opera, but you might want to think about where your natural bumping places are. And remember, some of this needs to come from you! Smile at people when you walk around the park, use local shops, say hello to checkout staff, make conversation with someone you meet in a queue at a conference.  You might make a friend or at the very least cheer up a day.

You can find out more on the Good Practice Mentors’ website, and on our Eventbrite page, about how we encourage people to try out community places and use them to make friendships.

Background: top half blue and white horizontal stripes, lower half solid red. An impressionistic figure, completely white, but for a red neck tie, ‘strides’ forward from the middle. Below the feet is white text:”The Sailor From Gibraltar”.

I went to a funeral earlier this month. There I discovered my friend met his wife. of 50 plus years, on the train on the way to his first naval posting. He sent her a postcard from Gibraltar and she became a sailor’s wife. He was brave enough to make a connection. Maybe you could try it yourself? (Neither joining the navy, nor going to Gibraltar, is essential!)

Jessica Duffy
Good Practice Mentor