Monday, February 15, 2016

Hospitality for the Rest of Us: Long Distance


People are moving more and more. When I was a youngster, it was a rare instance for a friend to move away. Now it's me that moves away. We've moved a lot, especially when we first got married. It was something like five addresses and three states in the first four years of our marriage. We've slowed down a bit. In the midst of all that moving, we've made some friends along the way. I try to keep an open line in case of times of grief and celebration.

One of the best tools I've found for keeping in touch with loved ones far away is Facebook. As much time as I could spend doing other things instead of checking it, it's the best thing I've found. It allows me to communicate with others, without having to call. I know calling is amazing, hearing people's voices, but for introverts, there are no body language clues for us to pick up on that help make our conversations easier. It's also why we prefer to video chat :-) Back to Facebook, some etiquette.

If you read something on the Facebook, use it as a beginning of a conversation, not for jumping in the middle. Ask about the post as opposed pretending like they've come over and told you themselves. This is a personal preference. I find it quite creepy when someone talks to me with authority about something I posted in passing on Facebook. In the same vein, if someone tells me something they've already posted about, I let them tell me.

Unless you are a registered member of a political party and highly involved with politics, keep the rhetoric to yourself instead of posting it. I'm all for you liking things and commenting on political pages, but if you aren't truly passionate about it, posting political memes on your Facebook page is only going to alienate people. The Internet has yet to sway people in their views on politicians. The same goes for religion or any other cause, if you're not committed and actively involved, keep it off your page.

Don't be a lurker. Do you remember when people used to read magazines, clip articles and send them to one another? Facebook makes this so much easier. You read something, share and tag your friend. Super simple. This would also be a good use of those memes I told you to be careful with. Share directly to people you know will enjoy them.

Sometimes people appear to be lurkers, but Facebook messenger is one of the best ways to get ahold of them. There's a couple of ways to find out, the easiest is to message them and see if it works. If you want to be aware and a part of people's lives, you HAVE to communicate. Facebook messenger is a cheap, fun, easy way to do that. There are others: Skype, Google Hangouts, email, texting, mail. Figure theirs out and run with it.

That brings up things beyond Facebook. Like I said before, introverts do call people, some like it, especially if they are good friends. Strangers? Or practical strangers because you haven't seen each other since kindergarten? Forget about it. We need those physical cues to listen to strangers. Introverts internalize things so we study body language naturally. We may not always get it right, but we do study. All that is to encourage you, if you're able, to try video chatting with long distance relationships. We used to do this a lot when Hannah was little. It was wonderful to see family. Much less expensive than getting on a plane every day. The technology has got better, still some glitches on occasion, but a worthwhile endeavor.

Mail! Mail is always appreciated. We love to see our names hand written on an envelope. It might be the best thing ever in this day and age. You don't have to write long letters, simple hellos work perfectly.

To what end? To what end do we connect with people over long distances? To love. And to remind them there are safe harbors in the world. Sometimes you might be that emotional safe harbor, even when you can't be there physically. We don't always need a hug, sometimes we need a non-judgmental ranting board. Sometimes we just need to know that someone is lifting us up to heaven. Sometimes we just need to know that someone would miss us if we were to disappear.

To that end, use ever tool you can think of. Love on people that are connected to you in far away places. Create strong bonds that distance can't erode. It won't always take. Some people don't want to be bonded to you, give them their space. But don't close a door or burn a bridge. Just allow them to be.

It can be quite rewarding to have friends in distant locations. Things can happen within that love that you won't see in your everyday proximity relationships. You'll begin to carry them in your heart. They will become precious in a new way. Your love for them will grow and so will your desire for them to have a place to be real.

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