“Community means more than many of us realize,” he says. “It certainly means more than your job.”

in Relationships Are More Important Than Ambition – Emily Esfahani Smith – The Atlantic.

Fire truck at block party, image.

We talk a lot – A LOT – about community. But we usually talk about it in the context of our niche, our passion. The crafts community, the maker community, the knitting community, the publishing community. We talk about it in the context of our audience, either real or possible. We talk about it in the context of marketing, of networking, of blogging.

I love this piece in The Atlantic about the importance of community in life. And I think we can learn a lot about our work communities by examining them through this lens.

Greg and I have lived in our house for eleven years. It’s longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else. But for a good chunk of this time I was not particularly enamoured of our neighbourhood. It’s sleepy and most of our friends don’t live here. There’s not much culture here. There’s not much activity here, period.

Over the last few years, though, I’ve let the negativity go, mostly because we know our neighbours. We know their names. We know their kids. The teenager three doors down babysits for us. We have a block party every summer. We’re not close friends, but we keep in touch. We know who’s pregnant, who’s ill, who’s getting married. We lend and borrow power tools; we trim each others’ hedges and trees. In the warmer months we can step outside and instantly have conversation and play.

And through Owen, we’ve gotten to know people in the broader neighbourhood whose kids go to preschool with him. So now we even have friends who live right near us. And though I don’t love them any more than I love my old friends across town, I take a deep and significant delight in bumping into them at the grocery store or making last-minute plans to go to the park or having them stop by unannounced.

I can’t properly express to you how much this all makes me happy. It’s a deep-down happiness I’d like to experience forever. And the article I mentioned above makes me think about being more neighbourly in my work community, too, because I don’t think it’s an either-or thing. I don’t think you need to sacrifice work ambition for a healthy home community, especially for those of us who work primarily in a virtual world and don’t need to move to achieve success. (Regardless, I certainly don’t think community is something unique to small towns; you can most definitely find and/or make it in massive cities, too.)

In my work life, I’d like to remember to stop and say hello more frequently, to reach out when my acquaintances need help or support, to have a chat with people I might not otherwise encounter save for their proximity to me. Our not-in-person relationships are just as important, and can be just as satisfying, as the in-person ones. I do a fair job at keeping abreast of the lives of my closest far-flung colleagues, but I could be more neighbourly with the people I don’t know quite as well. I could give more nods in passing, more responses to questions, a few minutes of help. I could be a better work neighbour, and I think I’d be happier for it.

I’m going to try to keep this in mind, and to act on it.