I read an interesting story today about how a community formed out there in the real world. It took place in the kind of urban environment I’m sure many of the city dwellers out there are all too familiar with. It’s an environment where you have people from lots of different countries and cultures trying to rub along in the urban melting pot that is where they live. Except in many such environments there isn’t much of a community. Frequently you don’t know your neighbour, and there’s a level of distrust of those that are different to you. People may be close to one another in terms of physical proximity, but that is often the extent of it.
A church in Boston however wanted to change all that. The priest contrived a very simple, yet very effective, way to get people together. Every Sunday at his church he’d pass around a hat. It wasn’t to collect donations though. Instead he asked people to place their name into the hat. After the hat had been round once, it went around again, but this time people were asked to pull out a name from the hat. The priest then asked the two ‘partners’ to find time to talk to one another for 45 minutes over a coffee. He suggested they share a little of their life story and about the things that worried them at that particular time.
And that was it. No more, no less. The result was that it generated hundreds of conversations, often between people that previously would never have spoken to one another. Strangers became friends, and people who previously thought they had nothing in common began to realise just how alike they actually were. Now when people walked down the street they saw people they knew and were friendly with. The neighbours they previously didn’t know were now people that had just the same worries as you.
“Initially I was very skeptical, because it seemed like kid’s stuff – putting names into a hat and all. But it’s an amazing thing that’s happened. I’ve met individuals who quietly live very heroic lives”
And so a community was reborn. The desire to create bonds with other people is one of the inate things that makes human beings human. All you need is something that bonds people together. Next time you go to work on your online community, try and find that thing that will bond you all together.