Years ago I took the Strengths Finders test. I paid $25 for the book to get the secret code so I could take the test online and receive printable results about my top five strengths. I enjoy these tests but also see the smart business scheme of enticing people to pay for affirmation. Learning about our strengths in a sophisticated, superhero-like presentation always invites investments.
Four out of my five strengths seemed accurate, and boosted my self-esteem for a bit. But one was puzzling. Apparently I have the gift of Connectedness. When I first received my results, I thought that was stupid, like they couldn’t think of anything else to gift me with so they made something up since I paid for five strengths, not four.
The introductory definition of Connectedness includes, “They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.” This is a concept I struggle with. I have questions and I have reservations. More reason to believe I don’t actually have a fifth strength.
Fortunately, Connectedness, involves more than believing everything happens for a reason. It also refers to someone who likes to connect with people, and to connect people to each other. Being an introvert, I love my non-connecting time and I try to keep my small talk engagements to a minimum.
But connection around meaningful conversation and purpose is very satisfying to me.
Once I read about my Connectedness strength, I began to see how this trait is expressed in my life. I studied myself, and it actually started to make sense in a variety of ways. I like to connect people. I like to connect one friend to another because they both adopted kids from the same country. I like to connect two amputees because they both played soccer before losing their legs. I love connecting friends who have survived similar challenges like alcoholism or abuse. But sometimes people don’t want to be connected. Some people with cancer don’t feel like making a connection, like the time we were at the Santa Monica Sarcoma Center, depressed because of another failed treatment and we met a fantastic young sixteen year old who was also dealing with a difficult cancer situation. Sam wanted to disappear and ignore everything going on around him, while I wanted him to connect with this hopeful and very engaging young man with osteosarcoma. It was an excruciating reality for my 13-year old boy and I was desperate to ease his anxiety. Sometimes connections enhance the stabbing pains of our reality and not everyone experiences the comfort of being in the trenches together. I understand that.
My affirmational summary of Connectedness also sheds light on my career and volunteer pursuits. It says, “You might yearn to dedicate yourself to some worthy cause or noble purpose. Perhaps fortifying the bonds between yourself, the people you know, and even those you will never meet give your life special meaning.”
Connectedness showed up on Friday
Friday was saturated with connectedness, a noble cause, and a worthy pursuit. Friday was about the people I got to know and the young people I will never meet. Friday filled me up AND it knocked me to my knees.
I spent Friday at the Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Institute (a non-profit pediatric cancer research lab), interviewing parents who have lost their kids to cancer, like me. The purpose was to put together a video for our upcoming banquet, The Sam Day Soiree, so all the conversations were recorded. I have no doubt the final product will invite a response.
But what caught me off guard was the soul nurturing power of my connection with each parent who showed up to tell me their story.
I nodded my head in agreement when they acknowledged how brutal the treatments were. Or how abnormally spirited their kids were. Or how passionate they became about cancer research. I cried with them when I heard about the moments they realized there was nothing else the doctors could do. We’ve all been lost in the dark while the monster showed up to take away our kids. We all know the chilling brutality of pediatric cancer. We've all lost the most powerful form of connection a parent can have. We lost our kids, and what remains is a painfully felt emptiness.
I'm grateful these brave and compassionate parents allowed me into their stories.
My videographer kept checking in with me after each interview, “How are you doing?” “Are you ok?” He saw my tears.
Connectedness is powerful. Grace shows up when grieving parents connect by exposing their sorrow, so uncommonly noticed in the fast-paced, distracted world around us. Why would I want to lean into another sad conversation about my loss? Because the soul needs permission to be real. Validation and the power of saying things out loud to someone who understands, is like an ointment spread over a gaping wound looking for resources to heal.
I crave connectedness. They call it a strength. I call it medicine for my broken heart.