Today I want you to set an intention to make a deeper connection with another person. It can be your partner, a colleague, the barista at the coffee shop or a total stranger.

It can be a very simple gesture or a longer, intentional conversation. It can be one person or every person you encounter today. It’s up to you. Here are some examples of intentions to connect:

  • Today my intention is to smile more.
  • Today my intention is to mindfully listen when I’m speaking with others.
  • Today my intention is to learn more about a new person.
  • Today my intention is to offer an act of kindness to a stranger.

                                     (from the New York Times “Healthy Habits Well Challenge,” Day 7)

I am a sucker for a challenge. Here you are today, reading and writing for the same reason—or at least, partially.

Teachers, I’ve observed, are these people, the ones who connect. Connection, most of us admit, is at the heart of effective teaching, and learning. Currently social emotional learning, fostering resilient learners, putting relationships first figure in much of professional literature, ours and others.’ Articles tout the benefit of “soft skills” over the nuts and bolts of business for example.

But relationships take time, and in my new role as a substitute, I don’t get that time, the hours engaged in a mutual enterprise, the ups and downs, the laughter and frustration that characterizes a year spent with students and forges bonds. I do my best, but…time.

The chimes and an unhurried, calm voice announces a “code-yellow lockdown.” This means all doors will be locked and all hallways cleared until a similar announcement ends it. Period 7, my prep, finds me organizing stacks of paper after a full day with sixth grade students in science.

I hear a soft adolescent-pitched female voice, “May I stay in here?”

“Of course. Welcome. Weren’t you in my period 4 class today?”

Our conversation begins like this. When she was one of the 30+ students in the 42-minute whirlwind of science instruction, I couldn’t pick her out of the crowd. Now as we chat I learn that she is the baby of her family. She has an older sister who still lives at home at age 22 whom she seldom sees. “I miss her even if she’s right there, she’s never there. She’s always working.” Her uncle owns a popular pizza restaurant in our small town.

Her older brother is a sophomore at a college about an hour away. He’s a terrific student; “Mt parents are so proud of him. He was the soccer team captain for the two years we won the state championship in high school. He’s study something with sports and injuries ‘cuz his coach, well, his coach is his role model. He’s having some problems right now ‘cuz, you know, college is expensive…”

She herself is an all-A student. She works at it, and gentle pride suffuses her voice. “I don’t get why other kids don’t care.”

These minutes end—how many were there? I have no idea, but they have been the ones I will remember, the ones that make today’s “job” so much more. Now Maria will be one of my familiars in a sea of unknowns.

Today’s wellness invitation is no challenge for me. It is the way I live my life, who I am.

How about you?