People Aren't Scary. They're Lonely.

Shannan Martin

by Shannan Martin


Amid the chaos and conflict of recent years, many of us are craving authentic connection like never before. From the shadows of isolation and division, loneliness crept in. There’s plenty of arguing, boatloads of sadness, foreign wars, local rage, and we’d rather not talk about gas prices. It’s difficult to know how to get along and work together right now. And yet, we intuitively know we’re safer, healthier, and happier when we find a way.

We have never needed each other as much as we do right now. The question is, where do we start?

The answer is not as elusive as we think. Connection awaits in the sputter and swirl of daily life. We don’t have to wait for a mythical moment where we uncover plenty of free time and an abundance of Zen. We can start right where we are, taking small steps that build over time into enduring relationships.

The house will never be clean enough. We’ll never feel charming or outgoing enough. All we’ve got is all we’ve got. (Complicated schedules, tired bodies, a sink full of last night’s dishes.)

I promise, it’s enough. Just as Jesus solved the problem of crowd-sized hunger with one person’s humble lunch, he invites us into the two-way street of authentic community, where we take turns showing up needy and saving the day through simple generosity.We were designed to connect. We need to be known, in the most basic way. It’s okay if our grand schemes never materialize. The real magic is hidden amid the hope and chaos of our actual, ordinary lives. We simply need to stay awake to opportunity and be quick to say yes.

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5 Simple Ways to Build Connection

1. Say Hello

As the leaves turn and the temperature regulates, we owe it to ourselves to get outside and soak it all in. Take some time to stroll through your neighborhood, appreciating what’s familiar and noticing what has changed. Practice making eye-contact and saying hi to whomever you encounter. It’s the simplest step and the very best start.

2. Walk-and-Talk

Think of someone nearby whom you’d like to get to know better and invite them to join you on a walk. It’s a low-pressure way to build connection while getting in those steps.

3. Cozy Drinks

Carve out an hour and choose your favorite coffee spot or tea house. Next, invite a friend and settle into the corner table to chat and/or vent about whatever happens to be on your mind. You’ll walk away a little lighter, ready to face life’s everyday complications. (Maybe try boba fruit tea for a change of pace!)

4. Pizza at the Park

Send a group text to the first three people who come to mind. Grab a sweater along with a couple of pizzas from your favorite shop along with your go-to beverage. Spread out a blanket at a nearby park. Adults can chat while the kids run wild.

5. “Bring What You Have” Potluck

Real connection isn’t about maintaining control or trying to impress. It’s about being together through the mundane parts of life. Set the time and location then ask people to bring whatever they have on hand. The only rule is that there are no rules! Surrender to the haphazardness of it all. Settle into the awareness that when neighbors come together, it might not be perfect, but it is always enough.




Shannan Martin, author of Start with Hello and The Ministry of Ordinary Places, is a speaker and writer who found her voice in the country and her story in the city. Shannan works as a cook at The Window, a local nonprofit dedicated to feeding its community. She, her jail-chaplain husband, and their kids live as grateful neighbors in Goshen, Indiana. Follow her on Instagram @shannanwrites.