I’ve been reading an insightful book called Community: The Structure of Belonging. A friend who knew it would be right up my alley recommended it to me. Admittedly, I haven’t finished it yet, but I can sense that it is going to be one that I refer back to often. One point made early in the book that rang particularly true to me is our lack of connection to others within our community. Author Peter Block refers to our current times in his introduction as the “age of isolation.” A sad, but true statement indeed. Studies have shown that connected communities have lower crime rates, are more economically viable, have higher educational achievements and healthier citizens. It seems like a no-brainer then, right? We should do everything we can to connect with others, to put the greater good ahead of our own and find reasons to include people instead of reasons to exclude them. Unfortunately, my wishing for a community full of altruistic people isn’t enough (where is that darn genie in a bottle when you need him?). It’s going to take an abundance of people who are committed to taking small steps to reunite us all. Get involved To truly have a great community to live in, each of us needs to take some responsibility in making it so. You may be thinking I’m crazy right now and I get it — there is hardly an extra minute in each of our overscheduled lives. But isn’t that one of the causes of our isolation? Many of us spend so much time devoted to our individual success, struggles or goals that we aren’t looking at the bigger picture — the success, struggles and goals of the community. We could see an extraordinary increase in social capital if each of us devoted a small amount of time the to betterment of our society. Consider serving on community boards, volunteering for neighborhood or community events or attending communitywide functions to get to know the people and unique attributes of your area. Be nice Be nice — always, no matter what and without the expectation of receiving anything in return. Small acts of kindness have a big impact — open doors, smile and give genuine compliments liberally and sincerely. Consider others when having discussions that can be overheard — refrain from using foul language, gossiping or disparaging others. With all of the technology readily available, consider your music lyrics if they can be overheard and what is displayed on your computer, tablet or other video screen if others can see it. I have been saddened to see incredibly inappropriate content while traveling by car with my small children on the built in TV screens of other people’s cars. Consider doing random acts of kindness for someone you don’t know. For no reason whatsoever and no ulterior motive in mind, do something little or grand — the impression and good feeling it gives each of you will last for years to come. Repeat Doing these things at first may feel mechanical, but keep doing them anyway. Put sticky notes on your mirror, put it as a to-do list on your calendar or write it on your bulletin board — whatever it takes to make it a habit. If we all commit to making our community better and put the work into making it happen, sooner or later we’ll start to see a shift. There are always going to be people who second-guess your intentions and those who are so miserable that they want to bring you down. At times like that it’s easy to feel discouraged, offended or hurt. When we’re upset the natural inclination is to revert back to our old ways of doing things. Rebel against nature instead (trust me, being a rebel is fun!). I will never stop believing that people are inherently good, despite the efforts of some to prove me otherwise. I believe that deep down we all want to feel that we are cared for and belong to something greater. I believe that people want to feel respected and use their gifts to contribute to our collective wellness and success. I also believe that many don’t realize just how much all of these things really matter to them. In order to become all that we can be, it will take the dedication of those who are brave enough to put themselves out there and spread some selfless kindness, consideration and care. I’m feeling brave today, are you?
Shelley Davis Mielock
Shelley Davis Mielock is a certified business image coach and the founder of Mieshel Image Consulting, a Lansing-based firm that specializes in image development for individuals and businesses. She is also a co-host of In Her Shoes, a a weekly women’s talk radio show. To ask Shelley an image question, please e-mail her.