What airline miles can teach us about relationships

World-airline-routemap-2009

Recently I needed to fly to a conference, and reviewed my airline miles to see if I could snag a free flight. The spreadsheet I use to track my miles said I had plenty on American Airlines, but when I logged on to redeem an award the miles had vanished. Somehow, twenty months had gone by without flying AA, and the 80,000 miles I’d accrued were lost for good. I checked my email and, yes, there they were, the ignored warnings of upcoming expiring miles. An opportunity lost.

In the same way, human relationships we’ve built up over time will eventually disappear without renewal. Unfortunately, maintaining a relationship doesn’t come with an official eighteen month activity requirement, and you don’t get reminder emails. Maintenance requires conscious activity to regularly reconnect and add relationship miles to my account. Living in rural Vermont, physically distant from most of my personal and professional friends, sometimes it’s hard for me to make the effort, and my lack of action puts at risk the kinship we’ve developed.

The good news is that relationships, unlike airline miles, have no fixed expiration date. There’s always the possibility that relationships can be revived by reaching out and making contact. If we can’t meet face-to-face, telephone calls, and online contact will help, though I believe that without occasional face-to-face meetings, all but our most intense relationships will slowly fade.

My lesson of lost miles reminds me to continue to work on my relationships. I don’t want to lose them too.

Are some of your treasured relationships fading? What are you going to do about it?

Photo attribution: Jpatokal from Wikipedia Commons