One way of thinking about relationships is in terms of strong ties (family and close friends) vs. weak ties (casual acquaintances). As an introvert, I’ve always valued strong ties, but since the pandemic I’ve also come to recognise the unique value of weak ties – you know, the person you bump into on your way to morning worship, the person you chat with as you’re filling your water bottle, the person you sit or walk with during your lunch break, as well as the person who greets you on your way into church, the person who shakes your hand as you leave church . . . all the people who used to be part of your network of casual acquaintances, but whom you no longer see on a regular basis.
Turns out that the smiles, brief chats and occasional jokes that we exchange with our weak ties are an important part of our well-being – people with larger networks of weak ties tend to be happier overall, and on the days when people report a greater number of casual interactions with weak ties they also report experiencing more happiness and a greater sense of belonging.
The pandemic has made weak-tie interactions rarer for all of us, so we’re missing out on this sense of belonging to a wider community. We’re also missing out on the many light-hearted conversations that create novelty in our lives – consequently, we may even run out of things to talk about with our strong ties because there’s not much new happening in our lives.
So it’s important that we intentionally cultivate new weak-tie relationships – you know, with the friendly librarian you see each time you take your children to the public library, the chatty attendant at your local petrol station, the overly-talkative neighbour you’ve tended to avoid, or even the people you don’t know well but see on social media. These small-talk conversations will contribute to your well-being, creating both novelty and a sense of belonging – and they may lead to the building of new relationships in which you earn the right to share what Jesus means to you.
Sabbath email to staff by Edyta and Darius Jankiewicz (South Pacific Division Office Chaplains)