I mentioned in the previous entry, “Authenticity, the Foundation of Leadership”, that I was going to write about three conversations that I had recently with my dear friend Bruce who has ALS. The following is the second in that series centered around the idea of “Communities”.
As our conversation ranged over the day or so we had together on my last visit, we covered a wide range of topics. One moment we would be talking about some corporate topic and the next we were talking about our favorite bands from previous “Summerfest” shows. On one of those conversation “turns”, we somehow got on the topic of the people or the “communities” that were surrounding Bruce as he was facing his mortality. He talked about his immediate family, his fantastic wife Sarah and their three marvelous daughters. He talked about his neighbors and his church community. He talked about his work associates and friends. He talked about his old friends that knew him before he was married. As he continued, he kept describing these groups as “communities”, and that as he was thinking about the end of his life, he found so much comfort, support, and love from feeling “encircled” by these strong “communities.”
I joked with Bruce that when I was working for him 20+ years ago, we used to talk about “communities” in a very different light. We were always talking about how hip it was when we traveled to Chicago, or New York, or Miami, or L.A. vs. the small town in Wisconsin where we lived and worked. How the music scenes in Austin Tx. or Athens Ga. far eclipsed anything happening locally. He smiled remembering those days and commented that we were so naive; that we used to think “communities” were defined by their clubs, their restaurants, their weather, and their architecture. How wrong could we have been!
Bruce then asked me if I still had the yellow sheet of paper that he had written on from my last visit. I went to my backpack and pulled out the sheet he referred to, a lined yellow sheet of paper that he had written some names on during my last trip to see him. In candor, I had kept the sheet because it was the last thing I saw Bruce write before he lost the use of his hands/arms. He went on to describe this group as a “special community of people, all who help each other, all very close, all help each other’s families, very special people.” He said that’s what we all should be searching for and working on, real relationships with people where we are trying to help and support each other as we walk though this journey called life. Not alone, but encircled by “communities”.
As I came back to Atlanta, I paused to think about the “communities” in my life. My wonderful and giving wife Jennie. My two beautiful, smart, and creative children Bryson and Marie. Our extended families here in Atlanta, in Virginia, in New Jersey, and in Phnom Penh. Our friends who are parents of our children’s friends. Our friends from past work environments, or from before we were married. After just a moment, I realized that I/we are “encircled” by marvelous “communities”. “Communities” that help, love and support us through thick and thin. While I am not sure why it is so hard to see what we have around us, I am very appreciative to have a friend like Bruce that can be a great reminder that “Communities” matter!