photo: Clarisse Meyer

I had a lesson in connection, recently. At first, it barely made it through the door. But it kept tapping and when I let it in, it had connection written all over it. It surprises me that it is a lesson I need repeated so often.

Neighbors, six country blocks from my home, leave their trash bins at the road-side end of their driveway long after the trash collectors have come and gone. Of course, given that the bins are filled throughout the week, trash falls out and blows around their yard and the adjacent yards. It makes a messy, unsightly drive-by several times a day. We don’t know these neighbors, not even their names – they are veritable strangers. The six blocks may as well be 60 miles: who has the time? Yet, we have time to belly-ache about this inconsideration weekly, even to the point of asking the city councilors if there is a town ordinance preventing such trash-bin-trashiness. (They didn’t know.)

Then, just last Tuesday, I drove by another neighbor’s house just three doors down from our home. We’ll call her Alice. I know her to see her at the post office. We wave and flick a quick smile as our cars pass in opposite directions about once a month. And, I remember a decade ago that the ambulance siren raised shivers when her husband passed away. 

What made last Tuesday’s drive-by different was that I noticed, as if for the first time, that Alice had trash bins at the end of her driveway too. Truth be known, her house is nothing short of ramshackle. AND YET, when I drove past this neighbor’s house, I thought to myself, “Gee, I sure hope Alice is doing ok and that she is enjoying her new baby granddaughter!”

The difference of course can be described by many names, but “connection” works just fine. With Alice, my thoughts are “people-first” because we have a teeny, tiny bit of history shared, barely more than a face and a name, but that’s enough for connection. And with connection, everything tied to the bumper came along for the ride: compassion, empathy, caring, concern, patience and understanding. Heart.

It’s not a lesson if it doesn’t change behavior. So, I’ve made a resolution for this and many years to come: Whenever I drive by the distant neighbor’s house, prompted by their trash bins, I will raise a hand, flick a smile and think to myself, “I hope your family is doing okay and that you are enjoying this day.”


  1. Chris Bond

    This speaks volumes. Thank you for sharing, Susan! I will honor this insight whenever I begin a negative thought about a neighbor or other acquaintance who has done something annoying…

    “with connection, everything tied to the bumper came along for the ride: compassion, empathy, caring, concern, patience and understanding. Heart.”

  2. Julie

    Breaching the divide between “us” and “them”, creating connections which allow us to see the “other” is so important. Small things (a smile, a wave) create big changes.
    Thanks Susan.

  3. Heather Binns

    I love this Susan! A great lesson for all of us!!

  4. Iris Maxfield

    This springs to mind the quote Kay has on her website.

    The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

  5. Helen Mayes

    Many people feel connection in their every day life with people, however in my own opinion they do not know what that feeling is, which I consider to be sad. Therefore many people do not understand how to be connected to their dog.

  6. Sheila Allen

    Love this. You very simply, yet eloquently illustrate that there is bth an all or nothing quality to connection AND a degrees quality to connection. There is nothing “tied to the bumper” without connection and the degree of each quality that IS tied to the bumper once a connection is made ( even if that connection is only an awareness within our own minds and hearts) depends on the depth and breadth of the connection over time through experience. This is an illustration I will carry with me as a reminder in all areas of my life. Thank You


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