Being a Connector

When Jason first met with his advisor, he brought up his medical condition. Jason had the upper body of any college student, but his legs were no longer than a six-year-olds. He was barely over four feet tall. Jason asked for no accommodation.

Over his first three years of college, Jason was accepted by his classmates, and there was no evidence of bullying or other offensive behavior toward him. His grades were outstanding. His goal was to continue his education in medical school.

Jason’s academic program required community service during his senior year and his professor asked him to work at a local rehabilitation center for children. The center worked with children with a full range of developmental needs. Some were physical while others were mental. His professor hoped this would be good for his med school application.

Jason had been at the center for six weeks when his professor got a call from the director of the center. He was anxious about the subject of the call, hoping that Jason’s medical condition wasn’t a problem.

Director:              I wanted to talk to you about Jason.

Professor:           I know that he isn’t like your common volunteer, but I hope that hasn’t been a problem.

Director:              That’s not why I’m calling. Jason has been the best volunteer we’ve ever had. His medical condition has been a huge advantage. Our children think of him as one of their own. He’s a big child to them, and Jason has embraced that image. In fact, we have one child who has never responded to any of our efforts, but  she responded to Jason. We think she is on her way to a real breakthrough.

Professor:           Wow! I never expected that. You know Jason has a dream of going to med school. Could you help?

Director:              Certainly. A big criticism of med schools is that we produce a bunch of specialists who lack the ability to inspire their patients. Jason has that ability.

Inspiring others begins with being able to make connections with others. Jason was able to connect because of his medical condition, but there are other ways we can connect. In rural areas, there is something called a connection ritual. That’s when two people meet for the first time and explore who they both know. Once a mutual connection is identified, bonds are established. Connections can be established in other ways as well: mutual interests, common values, shared identities, and related experiences.

Those who are able to inspire others form connections that link them to a broad range of people. They have an identity that says, “We are a lot alike.” That’s hard to do. Forming connections is genuine and can’t be aided by public relations hype or other campaigns designed to build images. It’s especially difficult today to be inspiring on a national scale because of the negativity of social media. Most of our truly inspiring people today are little known outside of a limited range of influence, and that’s a shame.

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“Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.” – Brené Brown (Author)

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Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.