It has been a month since I finished The Being of a Nation road trip and returned to Denver after three months of traversing the continental United States while getting the chance to talk to 375 strangers about how they want to be in the world. I took a few weeks to just be – catching up with people, sleep, and bad TV – and am now onto Phase II of this work…going through all of the interviews, as well as my lessons learned while on the road, and compiling them in a way that I can share with all of you. I will try and share some of my big takeaways throughout the next several months, but a lot of my next steps will be working “behind the scenes” to expand Chapter Be based on where I want to grow post-road trip.
The biggest thing I took away from the experience, though, was our inextricable need for human connection, and the importance of stepping out from behind the pieces of technology that we feel are connecting us, and realizing that true connection happens when we are together – physically and in person. We need to shift from using technology as an actual connection to using it as a tool to connect.
Talking to 375 strangers gave me a much clearer understanding of how much we are being fed certain information that might not be accurately depicting how individuals are feeling and being in this country. And – in that same vain, how much people are adopting what they hear (from social media, from 24 hour news channels, from some form of doctrine) as their own language, instead of forming their thoughts and opinions based on their experiences and interactions with others. And much of this comes down to one word – exposure.
So…How can we learn from one another via connection and meaningful dialogue instead of relying on our phone’s newsfeed or social media accounts to tell us what is happening around us? How can we meet people who are different then us, so that we grow our understanding of different people’s experiences instead of what we are told their experiences are? How can each of us do this without having to take three months to travel the country talking to strangers?
That is what I am going to be working on in this next phase of the work – how I can best share with you what I have learned, and the stories that I have collected, so that others can use it within their life and community to increase human connection.
I want to start off by thanking all of the people who contributed to The Being of a Nation, as you all displayed what human connection looks like in action.
To those of you who took the time to stop and talk to me – even though you did not know me, and I was just a random woman standing in front of a van – THANK YOU. Thank you for trusting me, and thank you for being open enough to share a piece of yourself with me. This project, obviously, could not exist without you. I feel honored that you gave me permission to share a bit of your story, and that you showed me the power of sharing a conversation with a stranger.
To those of you who opened your home to Harriet and me so that we had a warm and comfortable place to sleep – THANK YOU. Your kindness and generosity wowed me and reminded me that there are so many good people in this world. Thank you for supporting me along the way, for offering up ideas and suggestions on where to interview in your city, and for helping make this road trip possible. Having a friendly face to see after a day of travel was a shining light at the end of the road, and getting the chance to connect with old and new friends made my heart grow.
To those who generously made donations to the trip – both monetarily and through needed things for the trip – THANK YOU. Your contributions felt like a vote of confidence in me and also just helped make it possible. To have other people put their money behind my dream gave me a sense of support that was immensely helpful in making the road trip a reality. It awoke my awareness in the power of the collective.
To those who sent me an encouraging note, left me a message online, or who just took the time to stop and listen to me – even if you did not want to share your story – THANK YOU. Some days were tough, and getting a message to let me know you were thinking of me, or saw my van on the highway, or loved the project, or just were checking in to see how I was doing – it gave me the positive nudge I needed to keep going. It also reminded me how important it is to let people know you are in their corner, cheering them on as they go about their day and life. It meant so much, and made me feel as though I had you along with me on this quest.
The Being of a Nation taught me just how much we have to learn from one another and reminded me of how beautiful people can be. We are craving community and we are craving true connection. We just have become a bit lazy and a lot jaded. It is prime time for us to connect to our own humanity and to see the human in each other. Our country needs it. Our souls need it.
So, stay tuned as Phase II develops…