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By Shelley Tatum Kieran

“Mum, do you have to talk to everyone?", my son asks as we pull away from the market on a recent Saturday morning. Odds are high that, in a ten minute dash through the store for weekend supplies, I’ve exchanged a warm hello by the butter lettuce, talked barbecue with the butcher, said good morning in the ice cream aisle, and heard a family update at check-out.

Connection is my stock-in-trade – eye contact, a smile, a quick hug, or a genuine wave in traffic. It is who I am. And its risk-to-ratio benefit invariably trends in my favor, stoking my mood and fueling motivation.

A recent NPR story, Why You Should Put Down Your Phone and Talk to a Stranger, cited research showing that by scrolling through and often hiding behind our phones, “we might just be short-changing our own happiness by ignoring opportunities to connect with the people around us.”

One of the reasons we retreat into the ether is its amorphous guarantee of anonymity, thereby sparing us the embarrassment of a blank stare in the elevator or a hapless shrug in the latte line. But the alternative is isolation – and there has been plenty written about this age of discontent and its alarming shortage of real, human interaction.

So I may not have to talk to everyone. But given the odds that I can spread a little joy? I’ll take the risk and make the connection.

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