It’s Complicated

The relationship that global workers share with the word connected is just, well…complicated. 

We who have lived a cross-cultural life quite simply have different bags we bring to this conversation.

We let go of where we once felt connected with hope of new connections in a new place. All the while knowing that we have no guarantee of that feeling ever again. 

And in our bags that we bring to this conversation, we have words that mean something different to us when we set them next to “connected”.

Connected. Team 

After reading all the books on team dynamics, we can look up and say, “Well that kind of helps.” But those who write the books are people who get to go home from “team” every day. Their holidays, church services, vacations, finances, where they live, and how they live, etc. aren’t all tied together in their definition of team. 

Connected. Family

We can call and write and visit family as much as possible. And when we finally all get together, we wonder why it still feels like we are experiencing things in 2D. We don’t just feel the absence of true connectedness, we mourn what once came so easily for us. Time has carried on and it forgot we weren’t there for those jokes.  

Connected. Social Media

And then there is social media. 

Cross-cultural life and social media – nothing can make us feel connected one minute and like we are so lost the next. We love it. We hate it. 

There are so many things we are learning about how to do “social media” better. Lots of books have been written about this topic and how to better steward our attention. And maybe “better” is something that looks different for each of us. But some of those writing the books haven’t experienced years away from family. Ministry that has flourished because of Facebook. Getting advice about border crossings and cheap guest houses from an online connection who gets you. A much needed laugh from Instagram when you just ran five errands and were only able to mark one thing off of your list. Our life, our joys, our challenges with this platform aren’t always addressed by those who get our global lives.

We long to feel connected and sometimes this faulty place is where we find it. 

In cross-cultural life there are simply things I am grateful for that have been made possible by digital connectedness. And while the trend right now is to talk about how bad our relationship with social content is, like a true expat at heart, I’m ok looking a bit like I don’t fit in, as I take this space to show a little love for something that has at times been a blessing. 

On social media we are all given the same space. It doesn’t matter where we access it from.  And from that space we can show our creativity in the Christmas ornaments we just made out of bottle caps that we hung through tears on our Charlie Brown tree. Or we can proudly display our ingenuity at using our footlockers for a bed frame and night stand.

We can grow up knowing nieces and nephews as we make them laugh across screens. The gift of the unhesitant hug at the airport is brought to you by social media, Facetime, and Zoom.

It can be the gift of sight. The gift of seeing with our eyes what many before us had to sacrifice: the little things in the small moments. The things that add up and maybe wouldn’t make the highlight reel on the drive from the airport when they pick you up. The details that creep in each year on those we love like wrinkle lines from laughter and joy. The sounds we absorb, like the laugh of a toddler or the cheer when he made the basket. 

It can bring the gift of communal grief. Social media gives us a seat to corporately share in the sadness with those we love. Tornados in hometowns. Mass shootings in familiar places. The pandemic that left scars on all of us. 

Sure, social media has been misused, but there are also corners that have been claimed as avenues for digital media movements where the lost have found a way to type the questions they aren’t ready to ask out loud.

And at Velvet Ashes we have laughed together with our Friday Funnies on Instagram, because no one else quite gets our humor.

We have joined together online and had meaningful moments of retreat and rest.

We have met each other through Connection Groups that have led to in person connections, prayers prayed in earnest, and tears cried in love.  

After leaving my heart scattered all over the world I don’t think the word “connected” will ever be an uncomplicated word for me. But I’m grateful for you and for this space where I can sit just as I am and feel seen and known and connected.

What has helped you feel connected as a global worker?

What do you think?

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