Human connection is something that we all long for, even those of us who are introverts, like me.
One of the things that I got the most joy out of after my mother passed away, was reading her journals and seeing how many people that she connected with on her journey. People who she may have only interacted with for a few days or sometimes even just a few hours, made an indelible mark on her life. Likewise, she left an indelible mark on their lives as well. This I know from the many letters that we had received in the months following her passing.
Like I said, I am an introvert, which many people don’t understand. Many people think that introverts are standoffish, anti-social, or simply do not like people. Although parts of each of those components can be somewhat true, it is much more complex than that. I think that the best way to describe an introvert is that we do not rush to acceptance.
As opposed to “standoffish,” I think that “guarded” is a better description of being an introvert. We’re slow to allow others into our circles because we know once we allow them in, we will allow them all the way in. By allowing people all the way into our circles, it forces us to be vulnerable. Vulnerability can lead to pain and heartache. Vulnerability is also the greatest form of strength and courage. You cannot be strong and courageous without being vulnerable. By the same token, you cannot be vulnerable without being strong and courageous. When you let your guard down and expose yourself, you are always going to be open to potential pain.
As opposed to “anti-social,” I feel that “unable to participate in small talk” is a better description of being an introvert. Introverts love conversations. We just hate meaningless conversations. We long for deep, spiritual, meaningful conversations that answer many questions. Yet also create so many more. We ponder the meaning of life. We ask why God put us on this earth. We wonder why we receive the blessings that we’ve received throughout our lives. Many times, feeling unworthy of those very blessings. We’re searching for our purpose. We’re actually incredibly social once we find others who are “our kind of weird.” We just take our time, but once someone passes our “sniff test,” we open up and let it all hang out.
As opposed to saying that introverts “don’t like people,” I feel that a much better description is that we don’t like “fake” people. We don’t care about things and accolades. If you approach us telling us about everything that you’ve done in your life, we’re quick to tune you out. It doesn’t interest us and it certainly doesn’t impress us. We don’t want to hear about how great you are in your own words, we much more prefer to simply witness it ourselves through your actions.
Most introverts live within a huge quandary. We wish to leave our mark upon this earth, by doing what we can to make it a better place, yet we prefer to avoid the spotlight while doing so.
For 30 years, I ran a youth nonprofit organization. I was the “face of the organization.” The work that we were doing in the community was changing the lives of the kids that we were working with. I loved doing that work. I knew that what we were doing was something that one of my mentors, Toni Reece would say, “Was doing work that matters.” I also hated being in the spotlight and being the “face of the organization.” This was also something that Toni worked with me on for years. She forced me to get out of my comfort zone and take on that role. I never embraced it, but I did learn to accept it.
The bigger our organization got and the more kids that we were helping created that quandary for me. It catapulted me into social circles with politicians and other local business leaders that I didn’t wish to be in. It put me in a position where I was interacting with many people who always had their own agenda and their relationship with me or our organization was solely based on how it may or may not benefit them. But, when I found those real people in those circles, man was it ever refreshing.
There were many, but I would like to point out one for now. Tim McLeod. He is the president and CEO of Riverfront Federal Credit Union. From the moment that we first met, we connected. I knew immediately that he was my kind of weird. Tim immediately embraced what we were doing as an organization, but more importantly, he was genuine about it. He didn’t care how or if Riverfront would benefit from the relationship. He knew that we were doing work that mattered and he offered the full support of his team and organization.
When I had first announced my plans to step down from the organization, he genuinely told me that Berks County was losing an asset. During the midst of the lockdown, he would randomly send me text messages asking if Sandy and I were doing ok. Once we hit the road, I would still receive those random text messages from him telling me that he wished us well and was enjoying following our travels on social media. We scheduled a Zoom meeting just to catch up. When we got back to Pennsylvania this past spring, we got together. Again, at this point, Tim has nothing to gain from our relationship other than true friendship. He is a genuine human being.
Those are the type of people that I connect with, and when I do, I cherish those moments more than they will ever know.
When Sandy and I started this journey, a big part of it for me was to find that connection that my mother found along her journey. That real human connection. Covid stripped that from us in the beginning to an extent, but I am grateful for those who we have connected with so far. There are too many people to list, and if I try to, I will miss some. But just know, that if you are reading this, and we’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with you since we’ve been on this journey, those moments, whether long or short are the fuel that continues to feed my soul. Everyone that we’ve connected with and have been blessed to spend time with thus far, are my kind of weird. We have nothing to gain from them, and they have nothing to gain from us. We can just feed off of each other’s presence and friendship. As I had written in my last blog, this journey has allowed us to connect with some people in person who I had only been connected with through social media prior to us meeting. The first time that we ever did that, Sandy thought that it was a little bit strange. She was hesitant, but to this day, she will tell you that one of our most special visits on this journey was with Homa and Andrew Schweers in Virginia.
Now she’s actually looking forward to meeting someone else who we only know through social media, a podcast and some text messages. It’s funny because whether in person or through social media, you can often find out if someone if your kind of weird. That’s what happened after April Crossley and I did a podcast back in the spring.
April and I have been friends on Facebook for many years, but neither of us can recall how or why we originally connected. Then, last year, after Sandy and I had purchased our RV and were waiting for the rest of our pieces to fall into place, April asked if any of her Facebook friends would be willing to sell all of their belongings and live full-time in an RV. I immediately chimed in and posted a picture of our RV and said, something to the effect of “We would and we are!”
From that time, I followed her and her husbands’ journey and reached out to her to do a podcast. Initially, I just wanted to be able to talk about full-time RVing with a fellow former Berks County native. As we prepared for the podcast, we discovered that we had so much more in common than just our hometown and our wanderlust. We found out that we are definitely each other’s kind of weird. April is an incredibly successful real estate investor, that isn’t what we have in common though. Like me, she became a parent at 16, and although we have different perspectives of our individual experiences, we do have that common thread.
Much more than that though, we ask questions. We ask God questions. We ask what our purpose is here on earth. Although April has a multi-million-dollar real estate portfolio, she knows that she was put on this earth for something greater than just flipping houses and investing in real estate. She allows herself to be vulnerable and asks those tough questions.
She recently shared this post on social media:
Full time traveling is awe inspiring but it also can be lonely at times. (Do not ready past this unless you like mushy vulnerability)
A few days ago, someone hugged me. And I didn’t want to let go. I can’t remember the last time I was hugged. It made me cry & they weren’t even hugging me for a sad reason.
I came “home” (RV home) and just talked out loud to God about how I miss being hugged. My Grandmom was the best hugger and I lost her last year. Then I text my aunt & told her how much I miss her hugs bc she’s a great hugger too and someone I am definitely missing during this journey.
This got my mind racing down a rabbit hole about missing family. How my family is pretty small, how much I miss my Grandmom and how I wish I had better family.
Then… out of the blue yesterday I get a call from an elderly man who I helped two years ago. His wife was sick & they wanted to sell their house but they needed all the money they could get. So, I told him to list it on the market with an agent (which they did) and then I stayed in touch with him. He and his wife moved to an apartment and I would take him his favorite donuts & sit and talk to them and visit. His wife passed away before I left for my trip a year ago. This man loves & adored his wife more than anything. They were so cute. They were the kind of love everyone hopes to find in life. I sent him a card in the mail when she passed but didn’t hear from him for a long time. Yesterday he called me and left me a voicemail telling me he was dialing the wrong phone number but finally found me and that he misses me so much and really hopes I can come visit him and we can eat donuts together and talk Before he hung up he said: I love you. I am so grateful for all you have done for me and my wife and I miss you.
In this moment I thought – God has given me family in a lot of places. And I am astounded that after losing my Grandmom that this gentleman (who I basically want to adopt as my grandfather) reached out to me.
The universe is listening to you. God hears you. He is connecting you to everyone and everything you need in your life and he is removing everyone and everything that is not meant for you or your journey.
Great times or lonely, difficult times….have faith.
I read that while we were waiting for a mobile RV repair service to show up and look at our slide. I cried because it was very relatable. I too am a hugger. I asked Sandy to read it too. She did. She also cried a bit. We hugged like we hadn’t hugged in a long time. The repair man showed up while my eyes were still a little bit puffy. I texted April later and thanked her for that. The poor repair guy probably thought that I was really upset about the slide.
Afterwards, Sandy said, “I really hope that we can cross paths with them when we go out west.”
I do too.
I long for that connection, that real connection, the human connection that we all long for, even the introverts among us. We all love being around those people who are “our kind of weird.”