Building relationships in our community - It's not just for parents
By By John L. Reilly - District Executive Director, Indian Valley Family YMCA
Region - posted Mon., Feb. 4, 2013
There was a time when adults held the key to a family's social life. People belonged to bowling leagues. They played bridge or mahjong or poker. They sent their kids to bed early and had parties. They joined the Elks, the Lions, or the Irish-Polish-Italian-American Social Club. They had friends they could depend on that had no connection whatsoever to kids.
Every day, I go to work with one thing mind: Connecting with the people around me, so together we can make our community thrive though youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. To some degree, most people in our community do the same. Parents make connections in a school community. Volunteers make connections in the volunteer community. Politicians and government workers make connections in the public service community.
No matter what your place in life - single, widowed, or with family - everyone needs connections. Whether it's knowing your next-door neighbor well enough to ask him to feed your dog, or having a network of friends to turn to in a time of real need, social connections in the place you live are a must.
It's parents who have the easiest time. You don't need a degree in psychology to know that we live in a kid-centric society. We drive kids everywhere: dance, soccer, music lessons, fencing, swim lessons... the list goes on. One can't help but make a few friends along the way.
For the kid-free, it takes extra effort to build roots in a community. That's when it's time to look back to the time when adults held the key - but with a new twist. The Internet has become "the" place to find connections. And I'm not talking Facebook. I'm talking about using the internet to find opportunities to connect with people in real-life social settings.
Grown-up recreation is making a comeback. A quick look on Meetup.com (don't worry - this is not an "adult" website) with an 06066 zip code search turned up dozens of groups welcoming new members: a pick-up soccer group, an east-of-the-river dining club, a wine club, a book club, and special interest groups for hikers and stay-at-home dads. Notice something? These are not groups for children.
At CTUnitedway.org, potential volunteers can find the right place to give back to the community and make new connections at the same time.
And the clubs and service societies our parents belonged to? They're still around. I'd also be remiss if I failed to mention that the YMCA is a great place to become a part of the community, both as a user and as a volunteer.
I am more active than my own parents were, but in a different way. When my family moved to Connecticut, we dove into a new family life in a new community. People were welcoming, and we made connections fairly easily. My wife and I joined service clubs. We became active in our new church. The kids made new friends at school, joined sports teams, attended camp and joined the church choir. They held at least an equal part in building our family's new relationships. Whether established with our kids, or on our own, the connections my wife and I have made in our community have made our life richer. We can depend on our new friends, and they can depend on us.
If you haven't quite connected to the Vernon-Rockville-Ellington community, now's the time. Meet up. Join a club. Connect.