Getting more connected in a human way

Connections with family, friends, and community lead to lasting happiness.


Happy New Year. Welcome to 2024.

Are you happy to be here? Have you already started writing an inspiring 366-page book this leap year (one page for every day)? Or are you still recovering from the holidays?

As we move from a season of reflection to begin tackling our resolutions, I hope you are hopeful.  

I am fired up. I even wrote my goals down. This is something I usually don't do. But research has shown that people who write down their goals are 42 percent more likely to achieve them

The reason is simple. You have more clarity and accountability when you write things down. And it's easier to remember them.

One of my goals is to spend more quality time with my family and friends and less time on my phone. It's working. My daily phone usage average is down 35 percent from last week. And my time with my kids is up. 

I went to a Minnesota Timberwolves game with my son (the day before his ninth birthday), played outdoor volleyball with my 11-year-old daughter, and had some neutral (sometimes even positive) interactions with my 15-year-old daughter. Teenage girls can be a curious and challenging species (like all humans). I'll take what I can get. 

I plan to do something one-on-one with my kids once a week. I want to strengthen my relationships with all of them. I want them all to know I am their No. 1 fan. There may have been some uncertainty, I've been told.

My wife and I have already received one invitation to a neighbor's house for a Saturday night dinner with another couple. That's one more dinner invitation than we got in all of 2023. And the meal, conversation, and company were excellent. 

Short ribs, mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, and hominy pudding were on the menu. Followed by a chocolate bundt cake and vanilla ice cream. 

We talked about "A Doll's House," the 1879 play by Henrik Ibsen that was considered scandalous at the time for its look at gender equality in marriage and society.

We also discussed the Peris Hill apartments, an innovative affordable housing building in the Lowry Hill neighborhood of Minneapolis (Franklin and Hennepin). Some of the residents who live at Peris Hill are young adults coming out of foster care who qualify for the unique supportive housing program there. Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA) volunteers did something nice for them.

One day in December, the LHENA volunteer team assembled 25 gift bags while residents gathered to enjoy homemade cookies (from LHENA bakers) and select from donated hats and gloves for the winter. Residents received a personalized food bag and card from the volunteers.

Each bag included a $10 Starbucks card and six food items (meat, vegetable, starch, dairy, dessert and more homemade cookies from the team). The residents were overwhelmed with joy and appreciation for the gifts they received. This is just one example of how friends and family make the Wedge a wonderful neighborhood. 

This past year, the LHENA volunteer network completed over 30 different projects. That's a lot of connecting.

To help build more community connections, I am leading "Let's Connect," a monthly community speaker series event with the Southwest Connector that spotlights great local people doing great things.

We are all interconnected. But communities can seem very disconnected these days. It doesn't have to be. There are still people who want to connect and places to connect. We can experience the best kinds of connections in meaningful ways if we want.

As Chiara Gizzi wrote in "The Power of Connection and Why We Need It Now More Than Ever": 

"The human race has made abundant leaps and advancements in science and technology, but what have we learned about connection? 

Or perhaps the better question to ask is — what have we forgotten?

I don’t have a time machine — but if I did, I have a feeling when our ancestors were learning and creating ways to advance humanity, they didn’t think that in the future we’d forget the basics of what it means to be human. 

Kindness. Empathy. Respect. 

What good is the capability to fly to the moon if we aren’t capable of knocking on our neighbor’s door?

We have missed the mark. And we need to fix it. 

Connection to others still keeps us safe, its value has just been forgotten."

It's never too late to create a sense of connectedness. These connections can create a community of belonging.

Remember what Maya Angelou said. People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.

Make every person feel like they matter. Because they do.

Eric Ortiz lives in the Wedge with his family. When he’s not bonding, he is community building with the Strong Mind Strong Body Foundation and writing bilingual children’s books with his kids. Their first book, “How the Zookalex Saved the Village,” is available in English and Spanish.


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