Photo by Guy Mendes
I’ve just finished reading “What Are People For?”, a collection of essays by Wendell Berry. I don’t always agree with everything Wendell Berry has to say, but I certainly feel like a wiser and better person for having reflected on his point of view.
One of my favorite essays in the book was “The Work of Local Culture”. There were two quotes in the essay about the responsibilities of a community which I thought were worth sharing with all of you, who are helping to build communities in your firms.
The first is about building a shared memory. The second is about building trust. And as you’ll see, the two are related.
Communities Build Shared Memory
“However small a landmark the old bucket is, it is not trivial. It is one of the signs by which I know my country and myself. And to me it is irresistibly suggestive in the way it collects leaves and other woodland shed dings as they fall through time. It collects stories, too, as they fall through time. It is irresistibly metaphorical. It is doing in a passive way what a human community must do actively and thoughtfully. A human community, too, must collect leaves and stories, and turn them to account. It must build soil, and build that memory of itself—in lore and story and song—that will be its culture. These two kinds of accumulations, of local soil and culture, are intimately related.”
Communities Build Trust
“For example, when a community loses its memory, its members no longer know one another. How can they know one another if they have forgotten or have never learned one another’s stories? If they don’t know one another’s stories, how can they know whether or not to trust one another? People who do not trust one another do not help one another, and moreover they fear one another.”
Shared Memory and Trust Lead to Helpful Community Members
Sometimes I think it is easy to get lost in engagement tactics and product features (how to build communities) and lose sight of the big picture (why communities matter).
Building shared memory and trust so that community members will help one another is a pretty good answer to the question of “Why do communities matter?” in my book.