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April 2, 2009

This Wonderful Life

Making friends made easy

Posey has entered what I like to call her cruise director phase. Last week, while on a trip out of town, we found a nice little Japanese restaurant in the middle of Sleepy Hollow. (Side note: How far removed from civilization could Ichabod Crane have felt when he could have seen Manhattan while driving over the Tappan Zee Bridge. Sheesh.) As soon as we walked into the restaurant, Posey spotted another child, a little girl who looked to be about 2.

``Hi!’’ Posey called. She pointed to the girl’s Elmo doll sitting next to her on the table. ``I have Elmo, too!’’

The hostess sat us at a table just behind the other family, and Posey launched right in, introducing herself to the mom and dad.

``Hi. I’m Posey. What’s her name?’’ she asked. The dad leaned toward Posey and smiled. ``Her name is Dominique.’’

``Hi, Dominique!’’ Posey bubbled. ``This is my mom and this is my dad, and this is Bee and this is my brother Xerxes.’’

Posey does these introductions all the time, and she always gestures toward us with two hands, palms upturned. She looks like the introducing a new model at the car show, or a brand new washer/dryer on ``Price Is Right.’’ Sometimes, she adds a bit of biographical information, just to get the conversation rolling.

``Mama has a boo-boo on her leg,’’ she might gravely inform our new friends. ``Bee is my sister and she goes to school on the bus,’’ she might point out to someone who seems like he could identify with such an experience. ``Lydia has a instrument that’s red and it’s a flute and she tries to hide the diamond castle!’’ she might reveal dramatically to someone who looks to be in need of a good, compelling story.

In no time, Posey and Dominique were fast friends. Posey told Dominique how cute she was.

Dominique tried to share her Elmo doll and her bottle with Posey. I watch the way she dives into these new social situations, and can’t help but think how much most of us could learn from her sheer openness and enthusiasm.

I think of the grueling time I’ve spent over the years at professional networking ``opportunities,’’ (read: ``opportunities for awkward, stilted conversations about mostly insignificant matters’’), and I wonder how differently I might feel if I walked into those rooms like Posey walks into every room.

Posey believes that everyone has the same agenda in life that she has: To make friends, get candy and scare her mother silly with dangerous acrobatics. She does not yet know that, for many people in the world, the only goal that overlaps is the thing about getting candy. She thinks everyone is not only waiting to meet her, but hoping to meet her. She is doing the world a favor by unleashing her friendliness.

Most people I know stopped thinking that way some time around kindergarten, or the first time that friendliness was met with unfriendliness. That’s when we learned that making friends is harder than holding out two hands and saying, ``And this is my Dad! He took me to Badger Park and said `Posey, you’re too close to the top!’ And this is Mama, who closed her eyes and said, `I can’t watch.’’’

Making friends and keeping friends involves risk. What if someone doesn’t like you, or thinks she already has enough friends? What if you can’t think of anything interesting to say to that stranger at the mixer? What if I end up looking silly?

Posey is unburdened by the types of self-consciousness that lace most people’s social fears. Without suggesting that we should all be as unself-conscious as a 3-year-old, a lot of us could benefit from letting go of self-centered anxiety and seeing ourselves as cruise directors, always ready to supple and introduction, a connection or a really great story.

Elizabeth Trever Buchinger can tell you all about the Diamond Castle. Connect with her at www.moremindfulfamily. wordpress. com or e-mail her at VillageWordsmith@gmail. com.