Thursday, 19 November 2015

The True Meaning of "Linked In"

My LinkedIn homepage says I'm "connected" to 356 other people. Some are colleagues. Some are casual acquaintances. Some are people I don't even know, because I failed to screen properly before hitting the "accept" button. Truth is-- I don't really think about those 356 people at all.  And hitting the "accept" button certainly doesn't make me feel any more "connected" with them than I was before.

Except on July 14, 2015. That's when I spotted the invite from my uncle Bendt. He lives in a small town in Jutland, Denmark.  He is 89 years old.  He had personalized his invitation with a modest little message: Det er ellers ikke for en dÃ¥rlig uddannet gammel pensionist som mig.  
Translation:  This really isn't something for a poorly-educated old pensioner like me.

Uncle Bendt
Some invitations linger for days or weeks in my inbox.  But this time I instantly hit "reply" and told Bendt how delighted I was to see his invite. He is one of my favourite people in the whole world.  His message really made me think... He's more knowledgeable, more interesting and far more important to me than the illustrious and educated professionals I'm "connected" with.

Bendt's been married to my mother's sister, my Auntie Erna, for more than sixty years.  He was a conductor on the Danish railroad for most of his working life.  He and Erna are serious bridge players and in their younger years, travelled Europe to compete in tournaments. They stay closer to home these days-- in the house where I visited them as a child. My Danish home.

On my most recent visit to Bendt and Erna's place in 2012, Bendt was as sharp as ever, and still played a mean game of Scrabble!

Bendt's LinkedIn invitation says a lot about him. He never stops learning, even when it involves new technology that might intimidate people half his age.  His modesty and understated manner do not disguise the fact that he's fiercely intelligent and one of the most innately curious people I've ever met. When I visited Denmark as a child, Bendt almost always knew the answers to my endless stream of questions, whether it was about a particular type of sandpiper on a North Sea beach, or the entire history of the 900-year-old Ribe Cathedral, one of the area's main attractions.  If he didn't know an answer he would head to the bookcase-- his personal resource library-- and search until he found the answer.  These days, he's just as likely to say "Google It!" to the delight of his grand-kids and great-grand-kids.

During one of my trips to Europe back in my student-days, I planned to spend a couple of days hanging out and partying in Copenhagen-- on the other side of the country from where Bendt lives.  Bendt asked if I might like to spend one of those days at examining Andy Warhol's works at Louisiana, a famous gallery near  Copenhagen.  To be truthful, I was much more excited about the prospect of examining live specimens at Copenhagen pubs.  But Bendt's enthusiasm got to me. He took the train to Copenhagen, the two us met up, and we spent most magical day at Louisiana.  I learned a little bit about pop art culture that day.  And a whole lot more about what really matters in life.

1 comment:

  1. Another well-written post - I love your use of language and your ability to take your readers through an unexpected journey. The start about linked in connections is relatable and I love how the post evolves to share personal/family relationship.