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It's About Relationships

by Michael Mills

In their book, What Color Is Your Parachute? Planning Now for the Life You Want, John Nelson and Richard N. Bolles describe three levels of relationships: pleasant, engaging and meaningful. Pleasant relationships are just that, light-hearted and fun. Engaging relationships typically are between well-matched colleagues. Meaningful relationships, however, occur when one feels he/she is in the service of something greater than himself/herself. A meaningful relationship elevates the parties to a higher plane. It connects people with a greater purpose, a calling.

Creating and sustaining meaningful relationships, initially, takes work but once they have been established they become addictive. Consider your relationship with your spouse or a close friend. It is intimate. Intimacy doesn't always mean sharing everything or tearing down every boundary, but it can link one to another in a way that is comfortable, sometimes challenging, and often fulfilling.

I have found that serving as a volunteer is a path to establishing meaningful relationships. Outside of the relationships I have with my family, the people I have met and with whom I work in FJMC continuously provide me with a sense of purpose and meaning. Long-lasting relationships based on camaraderie, core values and a unity of purpose have changed my life.

Yet there are a number of forces at play that counter sustaining meaningful relationships. Social media can create a false sense of intimacy. Changing work and family patterns often interrupt meaningful relationships or make establishing them more difficult. Thanks to the internet not only do we spend more time in the office but we bring the office home with us. It's not surprising that according to sociologists, the average adult male has 1.4 friends; a decade ago he would have had twice that.

When I read those statistics I asked myself why I didn't feel part of that study. What is it that makes me feel that my friendships and relationships are expanding at a time when studies say they should be contracting? Years ago I never considered that joining a men's club and a synagogue would dramatically alter my life. Years ago I never would have thought that my volunteer work could make a difference. Perhaps that should be one of the messages our communities need to broadcast.

FJMC's mission of involving Jewish men in Jewish life has guided the planning of our programs and initiatives for many years. Yet while the phrase describes our mission, it doesn't fully capture the essence of what FJMC is all about. Indeed, FJMC has become synonymous with leadership, with innovation and building our communities. It is exactly within these communities of men that I find some of the most enduring of the meaningful relationships that Nelson and Bolles describe.

As we enter the new year of 5773, I invite you to join me!

Michael Mills is president of FJMC.

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