Good Work: Living in Community

You have been given a community to nurture and be nurtured by.
-Rev. Mike McIntosh 

An anniversary like today makes me think about diverse communities living together.  A few years back I went to a school board convention in San Francisco and on the way back to my hotel from the Moscone Convention Center I noticed a group of Hispanic cleaning ladies streaming into a old cathedral trapped in a dark forest of glass hotels.  The whispered prayers of a shared afternoon mass drew these women together with a powerful sense of community.  As desperate as their individual situations may have been, I longed to feel the sense of community that they shared.
Rather than a place to live, Henri Nouwen called community a discipline to be practiced.  We practice community when we play together, when we work together, when we serve together, when we worship together.  Membership creates responsibility, obedience creates community.  The women of St. Patrick were a riveting example of what Nouwen, in one of his last books, Making All Things New, called “obedience practiced together.”
Mike McIntosh (quoted above) was a pastor that lived as a community leader, not just a congregation leader.  Mike taught the orientation to our community leadership program Advancing Leadership. He encouraged his church to support public schools and organized volunteer tutors.
Every work setting can be a community.  It begins with one person enrolling in the discipline of something larger than themselves.  Community is extended with the search for collective direction that honors each voice.  It is fulfilled by individual acts of kindness offered by those that value service above self.
Every work setting can build community.  If the leadership is visibly engaged in their contribution, and if employees are encouraged to speak, act, vote, contribute, and participate, the organization builds community.
Community is the aggregation of our individual behaviors.  More than a place or a feeling, community is a discipline of action.  Like love, community is a verb.  It is making a simple choice each day to build rather than tear down or neglect.  It is working together for families and children–all children.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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