Why I Am a Community Builder
Welcome to the launch party for my community building book! I’m so glad you’re here to help me celebrate! Grab a flute of champagne and mingle. I hope you see old friends here – and new ones. Before I announce the title of the book, I want to share a bit of the backstory with you.
I was one of 50 grandchildren of Jobe and Lily, growing up in Sydney, Nova Scotia on beautiful Cape Breton Island. Long before I came along, my grandfather Jobe purchased a large parcel of land by the Bras D’Or Lakes so his family would have a place to gather during the summer months. He was the original community builder in my family.
In our summer place, my older cousins took us for wheelbarrow rides, pushed us on the swings, watched us while we swam. Together we went on hikes with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and jars of Kool-Aid in paper bags. And in the small town that Sydney was, many of my cousins were in my class in school.
My cousins were my cohorts, my protectors; my tribe. They “got” me, with no explanation required, just as I got them. We were special to one another. We shared a wordless bond. They were my best friends, or, to use the language of today, they were my besties, all of them.
When I was eight years old, I learned we would be moving away from Sydney. I grieved at the thought of leaving my cousins. But in Moncton, I was to find a new tribe. Our house was across the street from a young city park with a pond, bridges, park benches and lots of grassy fields. Seventy-five children lived in the homes around the park. In a dynamic similar to the one I enjoyed in Sydney, many were my age, some older and some younger. We all played in the park together; endless games of baseball, tag, dodge ball, and steal the flag. We rode our bikes around the park, talking about life (yeah, even back then). Years later, married and with children, we had a reunion in the park which still today stores many precious memories of my childhood.
These two early group experiences had a profound impact on me. I didn’t think about it at the time, didn’t try to analyze or understand it. I just loved the way it felt to belong to a group of people who mattered to one another.
In the years that followed, I enjoyed many other group experiences. But it was only when I read The Different Drum by M. Scott Peck MD that I came to understand why I’d felt the way I had in those groups. This understanding was a game-changer for me.
I began to observe my groups hopefully as they stumbled (or did not stumble) into community. Will it happen, I wondered. Will we get there? But it was a hit-and-miss affair. Peck’s seminal work was descriptive, but he didn’t explain how to guide a group into community.
In my groups, I urged everyone to read Peck’s book so they would see community through the lenses I wore. But my encouragement fell on busy ears.
Then, one evening in December of 2013, my daughter asked me a question that proved to be deja vu: In 2010 she asked an innocent question that inspired my first book. Again, her question brought inspiration. I thought: There needs to be a shorter book; a concise how-to manual, complete with tools, templates and instructions. It should provide everything you need to build community.
I thought: maybe I can write it.
In the three years that followed, as I researched and explored the bread-crumb trail that Life set out for me, I discovered there is much much more to community than I’d imagined. Community building belongs in the workplace, the schools, places of worship and politics; it affects us on a personal level and it affects us on a global one. Human beings operate optimally within a community because we are better together and the “together” of community is like none other.
I am a community builder because I see how profoundly community impacts people, how we suffer when we lack community and how anybody can build it when they have the desire and the know-how. I am a community builder because I believe that nobody, anywhere, ever should have to feel alone.
Real community is unforgivably rare. It’s time to change that.
Sounding the Drum: Community Building in the Digital Age
is available in all the Amazon stores in both paperback and Kindle format.
It’s a fast read with stories, step-by-step guidance,
and an Appendix filled with tools and templates
so that you can build community, starting today.