We Are Already Connected

My house is about four blocks away, so I didn’t hear it when it fell. A huge legacy oak snapped in the wind during a lashing rain storm that hit on New Year’s Eve. On its way down, it took out a utility pole. I didn’t know anything was wrong until I noticed the street lights were out and the houses across the street looked black.

I stepped out into the rain and saw that the homes on my side of the street were lit, a string of Christmas lights shining brightly all the way down. But the homes on the other side were all dark.

The next morning, we joked with the neighbors about the luck of the draw, our side being on a different part of the grid. We assumed power would be restored quickly and this would be just a minor inconvenience.

As the outage continued into a second night, we became concerned. Without electricity, our neighbors could not run their furnaces. They included a couple in their 80s, a man with Parkinson’s, an elderly single woman, a young couple and their one-year-old toddler. Our neighbors were now wearing coats and hats inside. Night time temperatures were hovering above 40 degrees.

Our street is unusual, perhaps. We have a strong sense of community that you don’t find in every neighborhood. We have monthly potlucks. We close the street on the Fourth of July and have a picnic in the middle of the road. We hold a chili and ribs competition every fall. And the weekend after Thanksgiving, a large group of us gather to pull out ladders and string lights from tree to tree along both sides of the street.

Spontaneously, folks started to act. Before a third night could fall, we had laid a series of extension cords across the road to supply power and warmth to our friends on the other side. Driving down our street that night, I felt a lump in my throat to see the orange and yellow cords connecting our homes.

How did this collection of people become a community? You could say it was because we had gotten to know each other through our organized events. That’s true, shared experiences help create bonds of friendship. But I think there’s more to it. I think we are already connected and our shared experiences merely reveal that latent connection.

That’s good news. It means we can open our senses to our natural connection with anyone on very short notice. This happens all the time when people rush to help strangers after an accident or natural disaster. The feeling of relationship is instantaneous.

We can also learn to do this intentionally. The field of connection is always present. We can activate our dormant capacity to perceive this field by using it. You can do this privately, without calling notice to yourself. Place your attention on someone nearby, someone you know, and look at them with new eyes. Sense the underlying relationship between you, feeling appreciation for all the ways they enhance your life. Spend a moment with these feelings and let them deepen.

You can also try this with random strangers, in a grocery line or on a bus. The person before you has hidden sorrows and celebrations you know nothing about, but you know that they have them. She is not so different than your neighbor across the street. Open your perception and see if there is a warm feeling in your heart that you can direct toward this person. Attune to that feeling and see if it grows. You don’t have to speak or act if it’s not appropriate, but you are awakening an internal antenna that becomes stronger the more you use it.

A block away from us, they had the same situation. One side had electricity and the other didn’t. A neighbor from there was shocked to see what we had done. No one on his street had offered support to those who had been stranded without power.

That’s not bad, it’s actually the norm. Everyone is busy with their own lives and no one expects that kind of gesture. But the more of us that attune to and amplify our inherent interconnectedness, the more kindness and generosity will become the norm.

Photo by Kier… in Sight on Unsplash

10 Replies to “We Are Already Connected”

  1. As a native Sacramentan, your story made me cry…with joy! It reminded me that we all have the capacity to create community and good will, we just don’t take the time and minimal effort to do it. It’s those small things on a regular basis that connect us. Thank you so much for sharing this story and process for expanding our connectedness. I have shared your story with others – I even sent it to David Begnaud at CBS News asking him to share it as an example of what we all have the capacity to do … to make a difference and diminish the divisiveness that seems to have grown in recent years. Again, thank you!!

  2. I happen to be the neighbor on the other side of the street who received power from Steve and Linda. What a blessing – and relief! The extension cords all down the street connecting us together was really a sight to see.

    Love this post Steve!

  3. Thank you, Steve, this is a wonderful post and a beautiful tribute to our street. I live across the street from Steve, and I have benefited from our street’s friendships and generosities for almost 39 years.

  4. Wonderfully written and well stated, we are the couple in their 80’s referred to in the blog. We don’t attend most of the events celebrated on our block due to infirmities. Nonetheless, all of our neighbors have always been sensitive and responsive to us and our needs: offers to shop for us during the height of the pandemic; stringing our Christmas tree lights, stringing an extension cord across the street during the black out (thanks Todd, Ed, and Gabe, Jr), offers to provide transportation to medical appointments, and on and on. There is no doubt that the kindness and support of our neighbors has been significant in allowing us to remain in our home for as long as we have.

    Thank you Steve for allowing me to express my appreciation in this response.

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