Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March Book Review: Community

Wow, what a month.

March was a blur. Not because of the nasty weather – ok, a little bit because of that – but of all the traveling, activities, and events that occurred in my life. From Tampa, to Chicago, to Arizona, to New Orleans, and back to Champaign, there were many nights when I didn’t know where I was when I woke up (no wise cracks).

Anyway, in the middle of it all, we held the Co-Lead Facilitator Retreat for the Institute program. What an amazing, talented, and challenging group we have the privilege to work with. I have never used the phrase “herding cats” before until I started with working with this crew. They give so much to the program and we try hard to provide them with an experience each spring to help them improve their abilities to deliver the curriculum and be present while doing so. 

In preparing for the retreat, I re-read a classic on my shelf, Peter Block’s “Community" because we were focusing on how to infuse the concept of community throughout the six days of the Institute. Simple task on the surface, but not so easy in practice. Block speaks about community in ways that I hadn’t thought about previously and one simple quote hit me and the staff hard - “How are we going to be when we gather together?” Such a simple question and yet amazingly profound. 

How many times have you asked that question before a meeting, before joining a team or organization, before choosing your friends? See what I’m getting at? Being intentional about how we enter community, how we enter the lives of others when we are the outsiders, how we create a space that can be safe and challenging at the same time. How we learn from each other. 

We started some hard and worthy conversations at the retreat, but didn’t get to finish them. Do we ever really finish those conversations that matter? The ones that have a huge impact on the our lives and the world? My thought is no. Once we think we have it all figured out, be careful. Being open to community, being a member of community, is not easy. It is very hard at times. My good friends in fraternity and sorority work are dealing with these questions about community now. Our colleagues who do business in Indiana and other states where threats to our community exist or could exist are dealing with these questions. 

They never escape us. We never solve them. That is the beauty of them. The work. 

I encourage you to pick up Block’s book, read it, think about it, and have a conversation about it with the communities you find yourself connected to. Stay engaged. Stay together. Make time to argue. Make time to be messy. Build a community that includes everyone and lives in possibility. 



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