“When we started out together, he was only my brother in name…(then) I made a connection.” That tender line was spoken by Charlie Babbitt describing a breakthrough with his brother Raymond in Rain Man (1988). We all need connections; it’s a precious reality that is part of the mortar of a well-founded life.

Most often, connections with others don’t just happen; they’re cultivated, nurtured, developed. Sure, many people with similar (or complementary) personalities and “chemistries” can hit it off right away (whether in familial, platonic, romantic, or professional relationships), but even then, I can think of no relationships in the universe that continue “connecting” by chance in the long run. Our culture foisted on us the ubiquitous myth of “quality time” in the 90’s. Although I don’t know the source, I love the rebuttal: “Love is spelled “T-I-M-E.” It takes quantity time and intentionality to connect with others.

When my friend and Jughead dad Eric Rynders died last month, my initial devastated reaction yielded to sweetness by my recollection that for about six years, Eric & I saw each other through our mundanely-scheduled event called “HubClub.” Wendy will attest that I didn’t always have the best attitude going into our monthly Sunday evening gatherings, largely because my sphere of extended family, friends, and Jugheads makes for a busy social calendar. However, I sensed that for Eric, HubClub was a peer-based oasis in an often difficult lifestyle of battling his heart condition while managing his household so that Dawn could work, the three Rynders kids could be driven in any number of directions each day, and Bea could even be homeschooled for a year. For the most part, I overcame my short-sightedness while Eric was alive, and now that he’s gone Home, I’m humbled that we were able to connect as friends in a unique way during what proved to be his last years on Earth.

When my 15-year-old nephew, Andre, died 11 years ago, it was my wake-up call to the (underestimated) effectiveness of working with youth. Eric’s death has been a wake-up call in being content with career calling (again). For every single time I struggle with my lack of juggling tricks or passing prowess that limit my ability to coach, I have to remember that there are 100 opportunities to connect with kids here—connections that may appear mundane on the surface but that can be mutually life-changing and ultimately fulfilling of the 2nd greatest commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:31)