by John Michel
Today, we live in a world where people work together for years yet never come to really know one another; where we know more about what is happening in Iraq than we do with our neighbors across the street. In a society that increasingly courts individualism, it is easy to allow our world to shrink to the size of our desk, our cubicles, or our computer monitors. What if there was another way?
What if members of a community were to contribute their gifts and talents not because of what it says about them, but because of what it does for those in need around them? From such a perspective, the entire community is made stronger because every individual contributes their very special strength to it, and in doing so, helps establish the sense of stewardship our times demand and all people deserve.
What if everyone were to recognize that the heart of community lies in the balance of the person and the group?
After all, individuals were not designed to satisfy their own interests alone. This is the perspective that drives men and women further into the recesses of their own world and farther from the communities in which they live. This is the same perspective that reinforces that people are nothing more than interchangeable parts of an already fragmented society – a society that routinely robs itself of the greatest gift anyone has to offer to others—themselves.
What if we all came to believe that in community the differences between people should not be viewed as cause for concern, but as opportunities to appreciate the value borne of diversity? For it is in diversity of thought, opinion, talent, and perspective that true synergy is realized.
A synergy only achieved by individuals who realize the purpose of community is not for everyone to be alike, but to commit to developing one another where we are so we can ultimately arrive where we most belong.
What if the members of a community accepted that life together is about learning to grow? that learning to take the raw materials of ones life and turn it into something meaningful is to understand meaningful change has nothing to do with reaching a certain age, achieving a particular status, or accumulating specific material goods. Instead, meaningful change is realized when we learn to serve others rather than focus on satisfying ourselves.
In essence, members of servant-oriented communities come to understand and appreciate the incredible power of collaboration.
Collaboration, with its many dimensions, is the cornerstone of community. For true collaboration is not simply about the sum of individual strengths, but an accommodation of collective weakness. True collaboration is about being patient with one another as we all continue to grow (not so we can be encouraged to become what we are not, but that we may be challenged to be everything we can be) – a community where individuals are encouraged to grow to their full stature not simply for what it will do for them, but so they will have the strength to help carry someone else that needs their help to finish the race we know as life. This is the essence of collaboration and the true meaning of fulfilling our responsibility to those we serve in community.