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Lighting up the holiday season

I’ve really been enjoying the articles in The Alpena News that share staff recollections of favorite holiday moments. Sharing stories like this offers a glimpse through a window into the lives of people we may not know very well, offering an opportunity to become closer as fellow members of the community.

What I have found most interesting throughout my years of career work is how humans often have a habit of interacting with the people on a superficial level. Purely professional language, interactions kept business-oriented only, and anything that waivers from this line is seen as weakness.

Those times when we do waiver and share stories about our personal lives, everyone ends up feeling a stronger connection.

I remember walking into a meeting about two years ago. I was getting over a cold and felt like I had been run over by a truck. But I came to the meeting prepared and ready to contribute. Someone at the table asked me how I was doing. I’m not normally a big complainer, but I said something like, “Ugh, I actually feel awful. Don’t worry, I’m not contagious. Just getting over a bad cold. But I’m here and looking forward to the discussion.”

A few people at the table stopped shuffling their papers to stare. I don’t think they expected an honest comment and were surprised when the generic, “Oh great, how are you?” wasn’t what came out of my mouth. Later, one participant thanked me for being so vulnerable and open, and for being real. I was a little confused at first but we talked and the discussion turned to how impersonal business interactions can be sometimes, leading people to treat others with a lack of compassion and empathy. When people share tidbits about their lives, or comment on common experiences, the dynamic changes and people feel more candid, more trusting, and more considerate.

When you peel back the layers, we’re all mostly the same on the inside. We all have insecurities. We all have fears. We all have similarities. We all have common experiences, good and bad. I really enjoy when people share memories from their childhood. I realize not everyone has bright recollections of their youth. However, when people share things that happened in the past that made them feel loved or happy, they light up. Then it makes us remember similar things and how they made us feel, and we light up. When we feel that connection, it makes us care more about each other and what we are doing together.

I guess you could say I like feeling lit. Lit by the light of positive feelings. Lit by the light of sharing moments with others. Feeling the light when I am able to connect with someone on a personal level.

As we gather with family and friends — or even strangers — over the coming months, let’s share more. Let’s share more of our happy memories. Let’s share more of ourselves to find commonality in the people we are interacting with.

Ask the clerk at the store what they enjoy about their job at that store. And share why you like shopping there.

Ask your kids what the favorite part of their day was. And share yours.

Ask coworkers to share their funniest holiday memory. And share yours.

Let’s light up this holiday season with connection. Happy Holidays!

Mary Beth Stutzman’s “Inspiring A-Town” runs biweekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.

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