Last week, I talked about my work as a Faith and Justice Leader with the Youth Theological Initiative at Emory. Over the 4th of July weekend, the scholars visited locations throughout Atlanta and observed how different communities celebrated the 4th of July. One thing was clear: The scholars did not perceive that the celebrations had patriotism as a main focus. It appeared that people came to enjoy the fireworks, create memories and share common ground. Many people came as families and many of the locations did not seem to reflect the diversity found in the general Atlanta populous.
We all concluded that people wanted to share space with other members of the community on this auspicious date. Thus, the fireworks displays become common ground where people who want to celebrate this profound concept of freedom gather.
This got me to thinking how one of the traits of really phenomenal leaders is thier ability to hear the call of the community. So my question is, are you listening to the call of your particular community? As a business owner, you are a mediator between your product and your community. As a corporate executive, you are a mediator between your team and the product. As a pastor, you mediate between your communal understanding of God and the congregation. You cannot get away from your role in your community.
Think about 4th of July and what happened in your city. How can you tap into the unspoken voice of your community? What was your community asking for? Was it a one sided observance of the fireworks? Or was it the parade that lured people? Or did you sense a need for people to connect beyond themselves and their nuclear family?
Writer, speaker and my friend and mentor-at-a-distance, Pam Slim says, “Community feeds personal, professional and economic growth.” To that end, as she planned on new office space, she decided to create intentional space in downtown Mesa, Arizona called “ K’e.” The goal of this inspiring space is to “create a central, open space where [she] can host live workshops, meetups, visiting authors, school groups, and do a Malcolm Gladwell Tipping Point DefCon 5 version of being a Connector in [her] local community.”
She gets it. She is a community whisperer. She has listened to the sound of her community. And that is why she has a popular TEDx talk, she speaks all over the place and writes extensively about really doing your own thing. She really gets the community thing. She knows that as much as we have valuable individual skills, we soar when we support community with our gifts. That is what we are built for.
Parker Palmer, Quaker mystic, says “community – a kaleidoscopic word that assumes new meanings at every turn—can evoke utopian images of a bygone era, a slower, simpler time when people lived side by side in villages and small towns. If community is to become an option for more than a fortunate few, we most shake off those romantic fantasies and create forms of life together that respect contemporary realities.” (An Undivided Life by Parker Palmer, Pg 73)
Times have changed for sure. But we are human. We all need community. Who is going to lead us to create that specialness that exists in genuine community whether it is a church, a business, a school or a neighborhood?
As you contemplate the environment you already lead, how does community play a role? How can you improve the fiber of community where you are today, in whatever role that you play?
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