The Blessing of Community

I have been thinking lots about the blessing of COMMUNITY lately. As I have been preparing for my session at the Western Workshop on “Letting your Light Shine from the Inside Out,” I have been struck again and again with the realization that for our individual lights to truly shine brightest, we must have the support and affirmation of a community of like-minded friends who understand our struggles.

“Community” is broadly defined as “similarity; likeness; friendly association; fellowship.” Notice that the root meaning of “community” is “with unity!” We all long for recognition, mutual support, and shared interest with other people‹beyond our family ties. In fact, many researchers believe that feeling a part of a community is essential to our psychological well-being as well as to our health.

This fact has become painfully clear to me in the last three years. With the death of my husband after 33 years of marriage, all of a sudden I was no longer part of a couple’s world. Then recently I moved from the home, village, and state I had lived in for nearly 30 years, leaving everything familiar behind and with little support system in the new location. As a result, NSA has become the ONLY place in my life where I truly belong! Certainly, my light could not shine without the support of this community. And because this speaking business is a lonely one, we all need a feeling of sharing our mission with others.

In their book Living in Balance, Joel and Michelle Levey describe what our NSA community means to me:

“Somewhere there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throat. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins with strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace we can be free.”

When Mark Mayberry requested examples of ways NSA members had helped other members beyond the common ones, here is what I wrote:

Thank you, Mark, for thinking of such a warm and wonderful way to show how much we support one another in so many precious ways besides just helping with the business aspects. I have several things I would like to share.

First of all, the NSA Prayer Chain has been a special blessing to me over the past three years. When Charlie was sick and I was struggling to keep strong, I knew that if I shared our needs with the group, there would be people all over the world keeping us in their prayers. That support was the most precious gift anyone has ever given me and my family. Along with the prayers, the emails, cards, phone calls and notes gave all of us a deep sense that we were not alone. When Charlie died much earlier than we had anticipated, I spent most of the night creating a memorial booklet in which I used many of the beautiful things that NSA friends had written to us. We had it printed and ready for his service two days later. So, the blessings were shared with several hundred people and the love went on and on.

I was deeply touched when Scott Gross offered as many airline frequent flyer miles as I needed to get any or all of my children home during the time Charlie was sick. The Monday before Charlie died, I was presenting in Vermont and was planning to go on to speak in Canada the day after. That Monday afternoon I received a message from his brother that I should come home immediately. Jim Feldman, an NSA Illinois member whose wife had died several years before, had told me that any time I had a need, he would be willing to help. Not only did he do the session at the last minute, but he also sent me ALL the money. The most amazing thing of all was that Charlie went to Heaven at EXACTLY the time Jim was speaking. All I could think of was that without Jim’s help, I could have missed that precious moment of being by Charlie’s side when he left this earth.

When I was trying to decide what to do this past year, knowing that I needed to sell my home in Illinois yet so unsure of where I should live, Mike Stewart was my “knight in shining armor!” When a condo on the ocean came due in Sarasota, Florida, he helped me negotiate the sale, interview and find both a contractor and an architect, he helped with the financing, and he oversaw all the plans–all things I would never have done on my own. As I look out at a five mile view of the ocean and think about a whole new beginning for my life, I am deeply grateful to Mike for all his support and help.

Finally, when I had only five weeks to sort and pack everything from the home we had lived in for 27 years in Illinois and I had four speaking engagements including one in Venezuela, I found myself totally overwhelmed both emotionally and physically. However, not only did six of the NSA Illinois chapter members come to help me, but Pam Burks and Jean Palmer Heck FLEW all the way from Indiana to spend the weekend sorting and packing. What precious NSA friends I am blessed with! I could go on and on, Mark, with the myriad of blessings I have received from this group. WHAT WOULD WE DO WITHOUT OUR NSA FAMILY????

All of these are examples of the importance of community in both helping us have the strength to serve our audiences as well as allowing us the opportunities to serve one another.

As you think about our NSA community, ask yourself these questions:

* What have been the most fulfilling experiences you have had in NSA?
* What gifts do you bring to this community?
* What is your involvement in this community?
* How has this community helped you to keep your light shining?
* In what other communities do you serve?

Henri Nouwen in his book Making All Things New shares how this blessing of community extends to our whole world and transcends all limits of time and place:

“We have to keep in mind that community, like solitude, is primarily a quality of the heart. While it remains true that we will never know what community is if we never come together in one place, community does not necessarily mean being physically together. We can well live in community while being physically alone. In such a situation, we can act freely, speak honestly, and suffer patiently because of the intimate bond of love that unites us with the other, even when time and place separate us from them. The community of love stretches out not beyond the boundaries of countries and continents but also beyond the boundaries of decades and centuries. Not only the awareness of those who are far away, but also those who have lived long ago can lead us into a healing, sustaining, and guiding community.”

How grateful I am for the “Spirit of Cavett” that guides and sustains National Speakers Association and for the thousands of speaker friends worldwide who make up this community of caring and sharing that helps us to keep our lights brightly shining!

© Barbara Glanz Communications. All Rights Reserved.

Barbara Glanz Biography

A member of the prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame and one of fewer than 700 Certified Speaking Professionals worldwide, Barbara Glanz, CSP, CPAE, works with organizations to improve morale, retention and service and with people who want to rediscover the joy in their work and in their lives. She is the first speaker on record to have spoken on all 7 continents and in all 50 states. Known as "the business speaker who speaks to your heart as well as to your head," Barbara is the author of twelve books including The Simple Truths of Service Inspired by Johnny the Bagger®, CARE Packages for the Workplace, and 180 Ways to Spread Contagious Enthusiasm™. Voted "best keynote presenter you have heard or used" by Meetings & Conventions Magazine, Barbara uses her Master’s degree in Adult Learning to design programs that cause behavior change. She lives and breathes her personal motto: “Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™” and can be reached at bglanz@barbaraglanz.com and www.barbaraglanz.com.

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