Life-breathing connection and values-based friendship

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 6, 2011

Two of our Cochrane coffee companions have given me much to think about when it comes to really being present to each other and building friendships that last.

Before I go there, however, I want to share a noteworthy response to last week’s column I received from Rev. Donald Schiemann, President, Alberta-British Columbia District, Lutheran Church-Canada. His letter refers to his son, a photo of whose statue accompanied that column. He wrote:

“Your recent article on the Mayerthorpe Park was forwarded to me by a friend. As the father of Cst. Peter Schiemann (we’ll always know him as “Pete”), I want to thank you for your tribute to the fallen four officers. I serve as volunteer chaplain for the Strathcona County RCMP Detachment in Sherwood Park. So often, the RCMP is criticized and even pilloried by some who seem to be on a crusade to discredit those who regularly put their life on the line to protect the citizens of our nation. Your article honours the police who go to work every day knowing that, because of the nature of their work, they may be called on to make the ultimate sacrifice. Indeed, on this Canada Day, let us give thanks to God for those ‘who stand on guard.’ Thank you.”

Now about being meaningfully connected to each other in a fast-paced, high-tech world, Cochrane author and keynote speaker David Irvine offered some valuable wisdom in his June newsletter.

“Connections have a life of their own,” he wrote. “You can actually stifle connections like you can a living organism, or you can breathe life into them.”

Here are his 10 conditions for connections to thrive:

  1. Focus: Identify the ten most important relationships in your life and make a commitment to be connected to them.
  2. Acceptance: Your goal is understanding, not necessarily agreement.
  3. Accountability: Take accountability for your own emotions, reactions, and needs – in all your relationships.
  4. Disconnection: Turn off your Blackberries and iPhones!
  5. Rituals: Regularly scheduled dates, breakfasts, teas, and uninterrupted, unstructured time to hang out and just be with the significant people in your life to allow connections to grow.
  6. Vulnerability Rituals: Develop a habit of sharing your challenges, your fears, your dreams, or your insecurities – for just three minutes on a daily basis – with a significant relationship in your life.
  7. Presence: Listen carefully as you feel with people. What are their dreams? What matters to them?
  8. Stopping: Slow down in order to focus on the people you meet.
  9. Tuning in: Listen for messages that people send without talking.
  10. Authenticity: Make time to slow down and reflect and connect with the voice inside of you.

I took special note of this last condition.

“You can’t connect fully unless you have a good sense of self-worth that comes from being true to yourself. As you live in accord with your values, your self-respect grows, and connection with others strengthens,” David said. “Connection with others begins with a connection to yourself.”

It’s this authentic connection to self that brings me to something I’ve learned about friendship from another thinker from Cochrane.

In 2009, retired University of Calgary professor Ernest Enns bicycled from Cairo, Egypt, to Cape Town, South Africa, as a goodwill adventure with Tour d’Afrique (see my column for April 1, 2009). As he neared the end of his journey, he wrote a self-reflective poem, “Friends,” about living in accord with his values. Here’s his poem:

120 shared days
50 persons met for the first time
Some become friends
All are acquaintances
Who is a friend?
A relative?
Someone you've known for a long time?
Someone who shares your interests and values?
What are your values? Mine are:

  • Search for Beauty
  • Cherish your friends
  • Nurture your intimate relationship
  • Use and don't abuse your body and mind
  • Be kind and sensitive to those who share part of life's journey with you
  • Minimize your time with mediocrity
  • Always carry a book, it is an instant escape

Thanks, David and Ernest, for these lessons in connection and friendship. Now I just have to apply them in breathing even more life into my treasured table times with our other wonderful coffee companions in Cochrane cafés.

© 2011 Warren Harbeck

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