Thursday, July 18, 2019

Creating Community

Despite all the energy and enthusiasm I like to display when I am teaching or meeting people, my days most often get off to a rugged start. I don't do mornings—not well, at least. I usually need a generous dose of "quiet time" before I'm ready to face the world—an alarming constraint today, considering I decided to spring for an impromptu morning coffee meeting with members of our local genealogical society.

What I usually do to coax myself into the inevitable "awake" state of mind most mornings is to stay in bed and read. Yes, my days are built backwards; the most productive times arrive long after the lingering freshness of the morning glow has fizzled. In my world, the sun and the horizon formally acknowledge each other's existence but once a day.

Among the reading selections I use to gently ease myself into the morning are thought-provoking blog posts. Top of the list is a daily thought piece by marketing guru Seth Godin. As if by special delivery, yesterday's post seemed to speak directly to me in this current state of mind:
The best way to contribute to a community...isn’t by complaining. It’s by making things better.

Remember, it was barely a week ago that I was complaining over the loss of the sense of community which once built the many organizations enabling genealogists to come together and share mutual concerns. This, itself, had been followed by a front row seat only a few days later, when I witnessed a languishing group snatched, eleventh-hour, from the decision point of disbanding.

Events of the day—once I arose yesterday from my morning fog to join the land of the living—seemed to second that motion I had just read. Another board member and I met with two librarians from our local branch regarding next year's schedule for the workshops we provide at their venue. Along the way, the conversation turned to the role libraries can play in creating community.

Libraries, if you haven't noticed, have reinvented themselves—at least in the places where they are still in existence and haven't been dismantled by the trustees of their local government budget—and are now thriving places addressing a multitude of community service opportunities. In our case, our genealogical society contributes toward that evolution by helping library patrons to more effectively access the family history assets the library provides. Just talking with these librarians about that vision of more effectively assisting in community building was energizing. We each shared about tools and outreach ideas we found to be helpful.

Leaving that meeting, I stopped at the unsuspecting coffee shop where I and fellow society members plan to convene this morning, just to say hi to the familiar faces there and warn them of today's plans. Since I have a longstanding date with myself to do some reading on specific books I've selected for the summer—yes, I am still plowing through Emmala's diatribe about her jilting lover, Robert Broyles, brother to my second great grandfather—I decided, once at the coffee shop, to stay a while and read.

Again, that turned into a reminder about creating community when I spotted the book the woman at the next table was reading. Since The Art of Slow Reading pretty much embodies my theory about absorbing new information—I already have another book I value by a similar title—I had to reach out of my introverted self and beyond those furtive glances to ask this stranger if I could see the author's name.

Reaching out and connecting—as I'm sure you were able to predict—precipitates the first token of community building. After a pleasant conversation with this book owner—learning not only her name, but sharing ideas on that subject with a person who turns out to be a college instructor in English—I realized how reasonable it would be to find as-yet-unknown like-minded believers in such key topics at a place like a coffee shop. Like attracts like...but we seldom have the guts to reach out, even when we are surrounded by people with whom our interests would most strongly resonate. Yet creating community only starts when we take those chances to reach out and connect.


  1. Physical, in-person communities are the best, naturally. But you act as a very nice coffee shop for the virtual community that gathers around you.

    I hope you are enjoying Emmala's journal. It's a bit strong, isn't it? She doesn't hold back. But as you have said, it is her diary, after all. She never envisioned the airing of her private thouhgts. I wish Robert Broyles had left a diary, too :-) His side of the story might look entirely different.

    1. That's a thought, Lisa: we do have a virtual kaffeeklatsch here at times, don't we?

      Yes, it would be interesting to see Robert's point of view on the stories Emmala recounted. While I don't have any sort of journal from the Broyles family, I do have access to a Broyles family history written up by a member of the Keith family--the surname of the woman who did eventually marry Robert Broyles--via


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