Shared Experiences

It was 1939 and Germany had invaded Poland in what is considered the beginning of World War II. England and France subsequently declared war on Germany. The English citizenry were dismayed as they saw Germany capture most of Eastern Europe. The bombing of England led to further dismay.

As soldiers were going off to fight the war, their families and friends were obviously troubled. But there was one thing everyone in England shared. It was a song: We’ll Meet Again sung by Vera Lynn. You can hear the song here:

The lyrics were simple, and it was a song that everyone could sing. When Vera Lynn performed for troops at various battle locations, the soldiers joined in as she sang:

We’ll meet again

Don’t know where, don’t know when

But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day


In fact, We’ll Meet Again became an experience that every British citizen shared. It gave them comfort and hope. While England is thought to be a very class conscious country, there were no class differences when everyone joined in the singing of We’ll Meet Again.

As the COVID-19 pandemic devastated England, Queen Elizabeth II referred to We’ll Meet Again in a rare televised address: The song again bought citizens together and provided hope.

Shared experiences create bonds that might not exist otherwise. But the experience itself is not enough to provide a unification of society. There needs to be a connecting thread that united everyone. We’ll Meet Again was that connecting thread.

Think of shared experiences that you have had with others. What was the connecting thread (e.g. “That’s one small step for man…”)? Shared experiences can be nationwide or they can be those connecting smaller groups together. But all shared experiences have one specific connector that everyone remembers that is very emotional even many years later.

Just imagine how the shared experience of living through COVID-19 could have a positive impact on society? Just imagine how shared experiences could reduce tensions we face today in our society? Just imagine the leadership needed to make a shared experience something that is positive.

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“There’s something really powerful about groups and shared experiences. People might be skeptical about their ability to change if they’re by themselves, but a group will convince them to suspend disbelief. A community creates belief.” – Charles Duhigg (Pulitzer prize winning reporter)

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