On Community

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This quarantine business has not been easy for me.   I thrive off of interaction with people.   I didn’t go into teaching to sit at home and design lessons on the computer for kids to do at home.  It’s just not me.   My classes are 60+ students working together to achieve a common goal.  Community is built-in to the band classroom.   I’ll admit: I’m WAY out of my element with this Digital Learning situation.  It’s forcing me to work from a position of weakness.

You see I’m a classic extrovert, an ENFP to be exact (a High D on the DiSC).   I live out loud with others, and I love to lead.   This is hard for me, and I’d assumed that the introverts are loving it.   But recently I read something that redefined how I see E’s vs I’s.    Kathleen Edelman in her amazing communication study “You Said This I Heard That” wrote: “Extroverts process their thoughts and feelings BY speaking.   Introverts processes their thoughts and feelings BEFORE speaking.”  With that in mind, it stands to reason that this is probably hard for the introverts too.

We are built for community.   Human beings have always been communal creatures, since the dawn of time.   Our network, our social circle, those people we are closest with, and even those we are not, but that have a regular influence on our lives; all of that combined shapes who we are.   Living outside of community goes against what it means to be human.   “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much,” said Helen Keller.   Another of my favorite quotes is from Dr John C Maxwell, “One is too small a number to accomplish anything of significance.”

My friends at Growing Leaders, led by a hero and role model of mine, Dr Tim Elmore, have a beautiful illustration of this concept they call “Emotional Fuel”.   

Image Credit: Growing Leaders, inc

Think of your car.   Like me, I’ll bet some of you out there are willing to drive the car until the needle drops to the left of the red.  Or these days, when it says “0 Miles to Empty” you tell yourself “Let’s see how much further this thing can go”.   Running out of gas on the side of the road though, is NOT a very fun experience, if you’ve ever done it.  Having to find help when you’re stranded is terrifying.

It is the same with us, as human beings.   Our people, our community, is our Emotional Fuel.   If we don’t have people in our lives giving us energy, for us to give energy to, and to inspire us, we will eventually run out of fuel.  How many of us are willing to push ourselves to the brink of ‘empty’ simply because we don’t have the time to slow down and ‘fill up?’.   Taking time to have a conversation with a friend, write an encouraging note, FaceTime with your grandparents; whatever it is that fills you up, is essential to keeping going in our world.    And much like your car, running out of gas when you didn’t see it coming and having to ask for help when you’re feeling stranded; that’s not a place any of us wants to be.   

Think of the people in your life within the following categories.  

Image Credit: Growing Leaders, Inc

Take a moment right now and identify the people in your Emotional Fuel Network:

  • Who is my inner circle?
  • Who are my partners?
  • Who are my role models, that inspire me to do better?
  • Who are my mentors, who can coach me to do better?
  • Who are my mentees, who need me to provide guidance and wisdom?
  • Who are my heroes, that I admire for who they are and what they do?

What holes do you have, or which of those people have you not spoken to in a while?   How can you use this time of FORCED SLOW DOWN to reconnected and refuel?  I challenge you TODAY to fill in those blanks and connect with those people however you can.   Perhaps it’s as simple as a text message or a friend request.   Perhaps you should seek out a small group of like-minded people to connect with.   Local churches are a great place to start for small group community.   Perhaps today is the day you finally send that email to ask someone to coach you in a certain aspect of your life, or reach out to offer support to someone who you know you can help.    

A full life is all about your Emotional Fuel tank being full. A favorite proverb comes to mind:

You use steel to sharpen steel,
    and one friend sharpens another. (Prov. 27: 17 MSG)

I’ll end with 2 stories to perhaps inspire you as to the power of this concept.

My wife’s family is going through a tough time.   One of her family members has been in the hospital and is very touch and go.   Aaren has been very emotional over these past few days, and I am not always good with empathy and comfort.   On a particular emotional evening, I knew what to do.   We needed to reach out to Janet and Roy.   Janet and Roy, for us, would fall between the Partners and Mentors category.  They are spiritual leaders and an inspiration to us.  I texted them asking if they would video chat with us and say a prayer over Aaren.  They say the best prayers.  It was perfect.   Roy and Janet fueled us with their prayers, and thankfully we have community that can do that for us.

Finally, I keep a card in my wallet that was given to me years ago by my lovely bride of 15 years.   It is a constant reminder of the power of community, and especially of staying close to those who know you best, who love you best, and who influence you the most.    The card is pictured below:

If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom, let me also make a recommendation. There is no better curriculum for teaching leadership that I’ve found than the Habitudes Curriculum. This is where I have drawn many or most of my ideas. If you teach leadership, particularly to teenagers, I cannot reommdend highly enough that you reach out to Growing Leaders at the page below. Not only are they amazing teachers, but also partners and friends.