I have a neighbor who goes out of her way to make sure everyone in our neighborhood feels included. Their family hosts cookouts and parties all the time. They had a party for Easter and Memorial Day. For Halloween they have a table out front for snacks and make sure everyone has glow sticks. When they found out we were moving, they made sure to host a cookout to send us off right.
It was so amazing to live here where this neighbor mindfully created opportunities for our neighborhood to bond. We have become way closer than we would have otherwise, that’s for sure! We are normally very private and quiet. This neighbor taught me that you have to create opportunities to connect if you want to cultivate a relationship!
Transformational Experiences Form Bonds
Recently, a friend shared about how her son is serving a mission and feels a camaraderie and brotherhood with the other missionaries he has served with for the last two years. This story reminded me of the time I served as a missionary for eighteen months. I mostly served with women, and we become just like sisters.
When I got home, I was watching The Lord of the Rings movie, “The Return of the King” when Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return from their epic journey. They are sitting in their local pub in the Shire and no one around them has any clue what has just happened! I started bawling because that is how I felt after coming home. I grew up a lot on my mission. I felt a real bond with those women I served with who understood what I’d just been through!
Shared Experiences Create An Identity
As I pondered these stories, I realized how our family culture is influenced by our shared experiences. I thought back on my childhood to the things that have strengthened my family. I think of holiday traditions, road trips, service projects, and even trials. These shared experiences refined our identity as a family and made us who we are.
As we work to shape our own family culture, I believe it is important to deliberately orchestrate experiences that give us our identity and strengthen our bonds. These can be epic experiences, like I talked about with Greg Denning in Episode 078 that stretch our souls and force our grit. Or, they could be Family Board Meetings, like I learned about from Jim Sheils in Episode 055.
Shared Experiences Are Essential
We can create opportunities for our families and communities to bond over the deliberately planned activities that create these shared experiences. In fact, I think it is something that is crucial to our modern culture. Neighborhoods, schools, communities, and congregations would do well to create ways to connect and form bonds that ultimately create a culture.
Children who know where they come from and know their family stories are more resilient (See New York Times article, “The Stories That Bind Us”). When we listen to our parents tell us about their lives, or read the stories of our ancestors, we feel connected to them because their stories become our stories. Their stories become shared experiences. Even hearing or reading stories within an organization creates a bond of shared experiences.
I recently watched the movie “Forever Strong” and one of the practices the coach did to strengthen his team was to give them a letter from a former player who wore the same jersey number. Knowing the person they were representing by wearing that number created an identity that bonded the players together. I feel that same connection when I hear stories from leaders recounting trials and victories in their lives. These stories create shared experiences. They create culture.