A Story About People And Connection (And Amanda Palmer)

I’d like to tell a story about connection. About people and community and the threads they draw through everything.

I can’t remember how I first came across The Dresden Dolls. Well, I do remember that someone gave me a CD of theirs when I was in secondary school and from the moment I pressed play, I was hooked. The Dolls, and later Amanda on her own, were background music to my life for years, sometimes fading out for the longest time, other times the driftwood to which I clung to keep my head above water.

It was just me and them for the longest time until I started to listen to Amanda’s message about community. About reaching out to people – sometimes asking, sometimes giving, and sometimes just being there.

“Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.
Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help

Connecting with others has always been incredibly important to me but I didn’t realise this or actively seek it out for the longest time. Travelling solo, however, put me in a position where I could either make the first move to engage with other people, or else leave it up to others and potentially be alone for long periods of time. The extrovert in me chose the former option. Sometimes I needed the company: I would walk up to a table of people and ask if I could sit with them (I was never turned away). Other times I recognised that need in others: I would strike up conversation with a lone traveller and invite them to dinner. Amazing things can happen when you open yourself up to people. Some of these people I travelled with for weeks at a time and never heard from again, others I spent an afternoon with and am still in touch with today.

I hopped on the Patreon train the day Amanda joined. Patreon is a platform that connects artists and those who want to support them. I had no idea at the time the connections I would make because of it. A Patreon Facebook group quickly formed and the amount of love and trust that was immediately apparent was mind-blowing. There was an inherent, unquestionable belief in the kindness of strangers, fueled by Amanda’s own philosophy of complete openness. People asked for and gave advice, support, and virtual hugs. I even had a (until then) complete stranger create a video to teach me how to play a song on the ukulele – Hi Alex! And the ball kept rolling: I met Patrons at meetups in foreign cities. Sometimes we queued up outside gigs together, other times we wandered bookshops and streets. I have had conversations in bars with people I would never have considered speaking to (and vice versa, I’m sure) about topics that wouldn’t have otherwise crossed my mind. This wonderful community has led me to stand in Times Square at midnight, listening to an orchestra play through headphones. Every single moment I have shared with these people has taught me or helped me to appreciate something new.

I’m in Berlin right now and I have a ticket to a sold-out Amanda gig thanks to, you guessed it, the connections I have made and the kindness of a stranger. I’ll be meeting some people from the Patreon for dinner and an art show and some company at the gig, and I don’t even know all their names or faces yet.

Trusting people, whether they have been in your life for years or you have only just met them, isn’t easy. But I firmly believe that the benefits far outweigh anything that could go wrong. If we were all to approach each other with the belief that humans are inherently kind, the connections we can make are astounding. The even harder (but even more rewarding) part is opening up to others in a completely vulnerable way: by being You. No walls, no bravado, no ‘best foot forward’. Opening up without shame. Without the need to impress. Bit by bit I am committing to this. And do you know what I’ve found so far? The real You – the delightful, creative, sometimes selfish or quick-tempered You is an inspiration if she is only given the opportunity to be known.

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“When you openly, radically trust people, they not only take care of you, they become your allies, your family. Sometimes people will prove themselves untrustworthy. When that happens, the correct response is not: Fuck! I knew I couldn’t trust anybody! The correct response is: Some people just suck. Moving right along.”
Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help

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