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chantel matheson

Connecting in the Military Community

Being a military spouse is special and unique. We root in differently and tend to go deep with our people because we just get each other. We often are without our family so our military friends become family. There are things about being a military spouse that you can only get when you join the tribe isn’t there? Like having orders switched at the last minute, how hard the goodbye can be (but how sweet that first hello is), and how challenging it is to fit furniture into each new home. We know what PCS means and just how hard it can be. We definitely know what it’s like to be the new kid on the block and to not even know how to find the local coffee shop. We know that community matters and will make all of the difference, but how do you build community? For me it has always been one cup of tea at a time.Our family has moved a dozen times and we are in the middle of move thirteen. We know the ups and downs that come with each move and while we have become better at the packing part, saying goodbye never gets easier. It is why we always say see you later. Community matters! Whatever stage you are in on your military journey, you can be sure that building a strong tribe will help you along the way.So, how do you find your tribe and build a lasting community while on the go all of the time? Again, for me, it’s always been about connecting one cup of tea at a time. I love inviting new friends to tea as it gives me a chance to get to know one person at a time and share what I love with them. Tea, for me, is about slowing down and really connecting. It reminds me to savor the moment and allows me to get to know someone on a deeper level. Having tea brings back so many special memories and I love tea, but for me it also is a way to connect. So, what if if you don’t like tea? Well, it isn’t really about tea at all. It is about reaching out, spending time and connecting. So, if you want to find your tribe and build community that connects I suggest you try to… SIP TEA…Share what you love. It isn’t about the tea, but about connecting! An easy way to do that is to share whatever it is you love. Invite someone to play golf, scrapbook, or join your book club. What do you love? Make a list of all of the things you care about and reach out to others to find common ground and a way to connect. Tea for me is my connector, but what could yours be? Coffee? Running? Writing? Whatever it is, when we share it freely and invite others to join in, we are building community.Intentional relationships will build community. We need to be intentional about our desire to build community and set aside specific time each week to connect. Every Tuesday I ask someone to join me for tea so that I can continue to meet new friends and connect with old ones too. It can be done in person or even over zoom. The important thing is to be deliberate and set aside the time needed to grow, nurture, and build relationships. When we have it on our schedule, it is more likely to actually happen.Put others first. Find out what others like and be willing to try out new things. You may find a new talent or hobby of your own by learning from someone else. And even if you don’t love it, you will know more about your friend and will be growing your relationship. As we know, the key to having a friend is being a friend first, so taking interest in what they love will open up new discussions and deepen the relationship.Time does make a difference. If having a tribe is important, then we need to reflect it with what we choose to do. What we invest in will grow and thrive. So, plan a girl’s trip or a night out once in a while. Surprise a friend with a night in or plan to workout together. The more time we spend together, the more we connect. You may have to be creative as we have friends spread around the world, but I can tell you the time you invest in your friendships will pay off and bring that sweet community you are longing for.Encourage others. One of the greatest gifts we can give a friend is to be a cheerleader and to show up when they need us. I know many of my closest friends hold that position because they showed up during the hard times. When we walk through the hard as well as the fun times we create connections and build lasting relationships. What can we do to lighten the load of our friends? How can we encourage them?Always remember old friends while building new communities. I find this point particularly important for us milSpouses since we are always moving. We need to be more intentional about staying connected with our long distance tribe. We know as milSpouses that moving is part of the job, which means our community is spread across the globe. I have friends all over the world and I know you do too, so we have to be deliberate about keeping those relationships thriving. There are so many ways to connect especially with the use of technology. In fact, I love having virtual tea parties! Zoom or FaceTime are great connectors. But, I also mail physical cards monthly to those I love and pop in a tea bag just to let them know I am thinking about them. To keep long distance community thriving, I have found that little things really are the big things. Simple things like texting, leaving messages or remembering a friend’s birthday, keeps relationships growing. Distance shouldn’t hinder thoughtfulness or being involved on a regular basis. We can still celebrate special events and reach out often to let them know we care. I have had many pizzas delivered to friends after they have had a baby or sent treats to lift spirits. We can call in an order to a local coffee shop in a friend’s neighborhood and meet up for coffee across the globe. We can do that from anywhere. When we set aside time to focus on friends that are far away, we continue to grow the relationships no matter how far the distance. We don’t want days to just slip away along with the relationships. Let’s remember that little things are big things especially with long distance friendships!Community really does make a difference on this military journey. Building community is worth the effort, so I hope you can take the time to SIP some Tea and find your tribe and a community that really connects! As a military wife, Chantel has moved all over the country – so she knows what it is like to not know anyone in a new town and understands how hard it is to create a community. After her first move as a young wife, she realized her experience was not unique, most military spouses had moved far from their homes so she decided that instead of focusing on feeling lonely, she would help others feel loved and appreciated and reach out to them by inviting them to tea. Read more about her work at www.teawithchantel.com and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram!