Good conversation is like a day at the beach, like the gentle ebb and flow of waves against the shore. Participation should be a back and forth motion, equal parts talking and listening. When I find myself in a group situation where everyone is open and not only willing to share but willing to consider other views, I don’t want to be anywhere else.
Fred says good conversation makes for good community. I find this to be absolutely true. Have you ever been in a group where conversation is effortless? Each person contributing usually accompanied by laughter, because when things are going well topics are light. In these moments we feel like we belong. That’s community.
On the other hand, think of a situation where something of importance is at stake. What’s it like to feel like no one is listening or information is being withheld? It creates an uncomfortable atmosphere and causes suspicion. It’s in these situations through a breakdown of communication that community starts to crumble. As the back and forth exchange of information becomes broken, rumor springs forth and people start to feel isolated. Then, people take sides in an effort to belong. It seems its human nature to seek out community.
I witnessed this breakdown of community recently when our school district announced some dramatic budget cuts. Members of certain groups within the school system, out of fear that their program might be cut, divided into opposing sides. False information was layered within truth and lots of finger-pointing occurred. Thankfully, I also witnessed a voice of reason reaching out to unite our community. A third group formed with the intent of finding accurate information and posting it publicly so individuals could form new opinions based on fact instead of emotionally driven rhetoric.
I’ve been noticing this phenomenon recently. With the integration of the internet to a majority of American households, it seems individuals are reaching out to find like-minded souls not to form a majority in an effort to conquer but to open up dialogue. Take a look at Facebook, people are forming groups to offer support, to keep connected, and to expand their community. It’s refreshing.
So, if you find yourself part of a community: in your church, in your city, in your neighborhood or on the World Wide Web, remember its survival depends on open lines of communication. Sharing our experiences and insights draws us together, so let your voice be heard, but also be willing to listen and consider.