For many of us, one of the most challenging things to do is to enter a situation where we do not know anyone. This is particularly true if we are out of our element, and not quite sure what our role is. One of the easiest ways to transition into a new environment is to find a way to be of service. This approach involves changing our perspective from one of seeking approval, to one of sharing our gifts.
In his book, What if Godzilla Just Wanted a Hug?, local artist, Darrell Fusaro, writes about how he was once invited to a biker party. Members of the gang lived in his neighborhood, and had taken a liking to him. Once at the party, surrounded by new faces and fresh tattoos, Fusaro was unsure of himself. He questioned his decision to come in the first place. Then, following some wisdom that had been handed to him, he decided to ask the host if he could lend a hand. He carried ice, brought out cups, and did a little clean up. Before long, he had made fast friends and felt like one of the gang. It worked so well that he met his wife, Lori, that very night.
I see this with my students all of the time. In fact, one of the reasons students come to my lunch groups is because they have challenges making friends, and new connections, when they are in unfamiliar situations. It is often their heightened anxiety that can lead to disruptive, or inappropriate behavior. This state of worry also makes it difficult to process new information in the classroom, and partake in higher order thinking.
What worked for Fusaro also works for my students. By giving them a way to be of service, they often forget about their self-conscious concerns and find a new level of confidence. This works in the simplest of ways. For example, some of my students have trouble sitting still. They are prone to want to leave the room at some point during the group to go the restroom, go get another milk, or do anything that will get them outside. To turn this into an act of service, I ask these students to report back to me about whether or not their peers in the cafeteria have gone out to the yard to play yet. This simple request transforms their experience. I can see the pride in their eyes when they return to give me an update. Over time, these little errands give them a renewed sense of accomplishment and feeling of success.
Similarly, if I have a student who is standing on his own, unsure how to connect with his peers, I will give them a job. I make it a fun job such as “Head of Security”. I then check in with them throughout the group to find out how the group is going. By having a job, they begin to notice and pay more attention to what their peers are up to. They also get positive feedback from me. They receive an added bonus because they look impressive when I introduce them to everyone in the group as the “Head of Security”.
Whether you are at work, or at a family gathering, there is always an easy way to connect with the people around you. Find a way to be of service. That might mean unloading the car, or lending an ear to someone you meet. It might also be a matter of shifting your perspective. Find a way to engage your situation in a constructive way.
If you are sitting in a meeting and feeling bored or disempowered, try imagining yourself as a consultant who was brought in to improve the quality of meetings for your company. What would you do differently? How would you make things better for everyone else? By shifting into a creative state of mind, the quality of your thoughts will improve. This will give you a much needed boost in mood, and the people around you will feel it.
By looking at life through the lens of joyful service, the quality of your experiences will improve. When you are thinking creatively, you feel more joy and freedom. This will lead to spontaneous connections with the people around you, and a deeper sense of satisfaction in any situation. Try it over the holidays, or wherever you find yourself feeling out of place. It is worth the effort to lend a hand, and make some new friends along the way.
Photo (Top): If you are in a new situation, and not sure what to do, find a way to lend a hand. Helpful students like Rick Ramirez, a seventh grader at Culver City Middle School, are always finding ways to make our groups a shining success.
Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District. He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, to find out more go to www.DarrellandEd.com.