It’s easy to feel isolated these days. It’s especially lonely for those of us who are conservative, religious, or traditionalist persons. We don’t usually get to choose our social environments and find few (if any) true kindred spirits in our school and college years, or later in our careers. Social media seems to have replaced real friendship, leaving us lonelier than ever. And yet, community is something we as traditionalists truly value and desire. How do we build connections with like-minded people? How do we even find these people in the first place?
Finding Other Traditionalists
The best starting point is to explore new places or events which naturally attract us. These will draw others who inherently share at least a little common ground. A fantastic option is to find an existing group or community where others are already gathering. It can take some digging around to find these groups, of course. For example, when I was in college, all the flyers and posters around campus were for sporting events, travel programs, or parties. But with some online searching, I found a thriving Newman center and Adoration group just a block away from campus. For all its faults, the internet gives us a leg up on finding communities which we wouldn’t otherwise encounter on our daily paths.
Then, when we have found a group that interests us, the natural thing is to attend one of their meetings or events. This can feel uncomfortable, but it’s a nonnegotiable step away from isolation. We have to leave our comfort zones if we want to meet potential new friends. A trick my sister learned in her early working years, when she was looking to meet others who shared her values, was to attend multiple group meetings in nearby locations. And, I would add, attend the same event more than once! It’s like going on dates. Sure, a first date is nice. But in order to really kick our romantic lives into gear, we should go out on many first dates, and try for second dates, too. Meeting potential new friends requires the same adventurous persistence.
From Perfect Strangers to Actual Friends
This is the awkward phase of meeting people. There’s no getting around it, but there are three tricks to make it easier. The first is to buddy up. It’s worlds easier to try out a new place and meet new people when we have an existing friend by our side. The only danger we should watch out for is falling into the trap of talking only to our friend, rather than networking with others.
The second tip is to get really good at introducing ourselves. We need to be able to strike up a conversation with the people we have worked so hard to meet! So dust off those social skills and put on a smile. Most people will be happy to meet us if we’re happy to meet them.
The third tip is swapping contact information and following up with the new acquaintances. Yes, we can swap Instagram handles or whatever online media we use, but a much more useful option is trading phone numbers. It’s better to text new acquaintances directly, or even call them, rather than just be Facebook “friends.” We should follow up with new acquaintances afterward. Let’s remind them of our names and where we met and invite them somewhere! Perhaps they’d like to attend church with us next week or go for a walk on the weekend. Maybe we could share a lunch break or a study session. The point is to open the door to reconnection.
Building Lasting Communities
Let’s say our local group options are a little lackluster. Or let’s say we have successfully met some new acquaintances but rarely see them and can’t seem to get a friendship off the ground. This is where starting our own group, or even a club, comes into play.
When meeting with a group, our time is used much more efficiently since we get a chance to connect with multiple people all at the same time. Plus, conversations are easier since the social spotlight can bounce around rather than being trained on one individual. And finally, a group offers a fantastic testing ground for deeper friendships. Back to the dating analogy: Spouses often meet as friends of friends at some event. Over time, they naturally find themselves drawn to each other—and the rest is history. Similarly, many friends meet in the context of a group and find themselves forming a deeper connection over time.
Arranging a group is quite easy! Start by picking a shared activity or interest, and find a place or two to hold regular meetings. For instance, I am part of a delightful book club. We meet every other month at each other’s houses or the local library. In all honesty, we only talk about the chosen book for ten or fifteen minutes. The rest of the time, we invest in our friendships, catching up on our lives and interests. The real need to label this a “book club” centers on giving us a reason to schedule a hangout. Having a label on our groups officializes them, which in turn helps us prioritize them. Any interest can suffice to form a group: Bible studies, hiking trips, prayer chains, fitness events, homeschooling co-ops, youth group activities, mom’s-day-out brunches, poetry readings, music jam sessions . . . the list goes on and on.
All in all, the only way a man is truly an island is if he chooses to sit down in the sand, waiting for someone to show up on shore and rescue him. Then of course, he will remain an island. But all of us are capable of building bridges between islands. All we must do is try. Nobody is going to do the work for us, and really, it’s not as daunting as we might think. I truly believe there are thriving communities out there for all of us, just waiting for willing hands to build them.
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