By Natalie Bomstad
On a recent rainy, chilly, windy day (you know…one of those Wisconsin “spring” days) I dropped my car off for an oil change before heading to work in the garage’s on-site shuttle. The driver, an older gentleman that I’ll call Jim, and I fell into conversation. After the usual pleasantries, our conversation turned to how and when he began driving the shuttle.
Jim explained he was recently retired from full-time employment and now works twelve hours a week driving the shuttle. His reason? To get out of the house and stay connected to the community. His comments piqued my interest, partially because our work at Live centers around health and community connection, but also because I have several family members either recently in, or close-to, retirement.
After over 35 years as a local plumber, Jim’s passion for his former work was palpable as his eyes lit up when talking about years past. For example, when asked what his favorite part about retirement was, he didn’t directly answer the question. Instead he reminisced about his days in the field, visiting with customers to fix their plumbing issues. For him, the plumbing industry was inherently personal. And Jim’s right. If you stop to think about it, what’s more personal than inviting someone to service your “throne?” He thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to connect with people on a daily basis and get a glimpse into other ways of life. He chuckled and proclaimed, “oh I could tell you a story or two!” As the conversation rhythmically moved along we discussed his wife’s potential retirement and life once they both were “job” free. Yes, there would be traveling in their future, but more than the desire to see new places and embark on new adventures was their yearning to remain connected to the people and places of Greater Green Bay.
Usually I drive to work either with my husband, or alone if our schedules do not allow. My ride with Jim struck a chord, in that this time was spent getting to know a member of my community, with life experiences that were relevant for me and for people close to me. I was heartened by Jim’s commitment to connectedness, and realized that ride-sharing was yet another option where members of a community can get to know each other while simultaneously making choices that are better for community well-being.
As a community, we spend so much time in our cars, alone, listening to our own music and thinking our own thoughts. Yet the connection that occurs when we carpool, ride-share or use public transportation challenges us to acknowledge that, by definition, a community is a shared experience. Because my car was in the shop, and I happened to ride with Jim, I made a new social connection. As human beings, we crave connections. Research suggests that daily human connection is not only good for our health, but is an essential component of building our sense of purpose and happiness. Small talk pushes you to put down your digital devices and be present and open to those around you.
So, thank you to my driver, for the gift of small talk and a willingness to connect. Have you recently engaged in some chit-chat that made your day? If so, we’d love to hear your story!