On a trip, mesmerized by the pure sounds of a trio of musicians, I approached them, telling them how much I enjoyed their haunting music. We struck up a conversation that wove in and out of days. I learned about their lives which made me appreciate them more. During their performances, I was riveted, connected to their music. Why? What was it about them?
This makes me think of the connections I’ve had with certain volunteers. And staff and clients for that matter. What was it that drew me to them, and them to me? Did we share similar backgrounds? Heck no. Did we share similar experiences, thoughts, tastes, preferences? Nope.
Was this connection instant, like a beaker in a lab, that when the mixture was just right, magic happened? Who knows? Science hasn’t yet thoroughly explained the chemistry or psychic connection we have with others. But it’s real. And it’s not always instant. And luckily for us, volunteer managers we get the opportunity to connect with a lot of people.
I remember Yaz, the student who interrupted me one day because he “had to get this project done ASAP.” I was exasperated with him, but grew to love him like a son. His chaotic life was infectious.
There’s Manny who always promised to show up, but seldom did. But every time Manny was around, I stopped everything and basked in his stories about growing up in the desert.
Then there is Marta who I loved like my favorite aunt and I always found myself gravitating to her work station so I could be around her auntie advice and clucking care.
Or Romero. I have no idea why I grew so close to this gruff, divorced, me-against-the-world patient, but I did and I was devastated when he died.
Or Helen who irritated the snot out of me, but I couldn’t get enough of her wise cracking humor and her “take” on this pompous staff member who drove me crazy. We used to sneak off to the ladies room to chortle.
Or Jose, retired military officer who had the best twinkle in his eye and the best darned chocolate chip cookies ever.
Or Miriam, a patient who taught me how to listen through her barrage of criticisms, but let me into her world. And oh, what a world that was.
Or Jay, a fellow staff member. We couldn’t be any more opposite in everything but he’s been one of my best friends for over 20 years. We used to tell people that we were brother and sister, (mom got around) and would then laugh at the shocked expressions.
I believe as volunteer leaders, we learn to open up to people so we can engage them. We appreciate the complexities of fellow human beings. The chance to connect deeply with another person is a gift we receive through our efforts.
Part of me would love science to explain why there is this magnetic spark, this connection with certain people. But part of me loves the invisible threads that reach out from me to them and from them to me. Those threads are rather magical.
And frankly, in a complicated, often challenging world, a little magic goes a long way.
And, when I sighed over not making much money, or not being understood, I felt the invisible strands linking me to others, like humming ribbons, that told me I was given the gift of connection. And those strands encouraged me in complex ways, to be better, to appreciate the gifts I was given, to fight for volunteer recognition and to grow as a human being.
I can feel the strands humming around me now, connecting me to so many other amazing human beings. I am thankful for them, love that I have the opportunity to know them, and I hope, a better person for sharing in their incredible lives. Like music, our connections to others fill our lives with joy and inspiration.