I didn't start out to create a community. Honestly, I never thought about it. I don't remember that I knew what a community was--really.
Sure, I grew up in a community. (Meaning: a. A group of people living in the same locality and under the same government; and b. The district or locality in which such a group lives.) Everybody did. Mine was Levittown, Pennsylvania. (Not too far from Billy Joel's "Allentown.") A vast expanse of tract housing that came about after World War II and Korea. Affordable homes for those blessed by the G.I. Bill. My mom was a Captain in the WACS. I think she paid $6,000 for our house. And she worked for Halpren, Bill Levitt's real estate firm. Perhaps she paid even less.
Levittown was a marvel. Our entire street--Huckleberry Lane, in the Holy Hill section (where every street name began with an "H": Hawthorne, Holy Drive, Honeysuckle...)--with its 116 houses was built in only 26 days. Welcome to the 50s: mass-produced homes.
After the ground-grading work, one crew came in and laid foundations (the heating units were electric and all in the floor, too), then another team did the studs for the walls and roof beams, then the drywall boys...ending up with four different colors of some kind of cement-like, made-of-something tile shingles, which (when combined with four different roof and carport configurations) meant that you would not see another house "exactly like yours" for precisely 16 houses up or down the street.
We had schools and churches, of course, and one of the first "shopping centers," the not-so-great, great grandfather/grandmother of today's teeming commercial community, The Mall.
In the midst of all that togetherness, I lived a pretty singular existence. I was never--no matter how much I did want and wish it to be otherwise--part of the group... any group. I didn't fit for most of them and theirs, and they were not a fit for me. Besides, my mom wouldn't let me.
I desperately wanted a DA haircut and a motorcycle. I knew that was out of the question, but I figured, if I pushed for a bike and fell short, the least I could get was the black leather jacket. I figured wrong. Just one more aspect of community where I wasn't a fit.
Not much changed throughout my life. I lived and worked with other people. Often like-minded and like-hearted. I spent a bunch of years in macrobiotic "study houses," living and working "communally"--but I never much gave a thought (much less a feeling) about community. "Lobo rides alone," and so did I.
I live on the side of a mountain in Crozet, Virginia. I don't partake of the community here. Nor in Charlottesville, our big brother/sister "city" 25 minutes' driving down the hill.
I just didn't "get" community--until God created the Internet.
Even though a big part of my mission with the Upline journal was "Bringing the industry together," I didn't really understand that that meant "community." I guess I was too much of a hermit to put two and two-thousand together and come up with "a group of people having common interests" being more than just that--a group of people with common interests.
But here I sit, founder of The Greatest Networkers.community--a great group of people having common working and living interests who, by virtue of being virtual, come together on the Internet from all around the planet to be a part of each other's common (from the Latin communites, fellowship, from communis, common, i.e.; shared) interests.
Their intention, I can only honestly suppose, is to belong to a group of networkers who share their resources and relationships to create and attract more and better in their businesses and themselves. They are a community on purpose. And I think that makes them different from most other communities I've seen.
Angus King, the Harley-riding Governor of Maine, said in his January, 2001 State of the State address:
For the heart of all this is community, which is really just another word for extended family: that complicated set of relationships and connections that bind us together, that allows us--and in some cases compels us--to know each other, to care about each other, to love each other. And in our rush into a new century, with its mobility and prosperity, its new options and constant change, it is community we are in danger of losing. ... And if it's lost, all the taxes and government programs in the world won't bring it back. If we lose our community, we lose our spirit, we lose our identity, we lose our soul, and we lose those things that make all else valuable...to know each other, to care about each other, to love each other.
So, that's what community is about: knowing, caring and loving each other.
Back in Levittown, I didn't know many people. I cared about even fewer. And loved...? Well, I loved my mom. (And Faith Jacobs, for a little while).
I've written before, a number of times, that the days of "do it yourself" are over. The future belongs to those men and women who actively embrace partnership; and a growing group of partners--working, learning, sharing, being together--creates community.
A group of people having common interests. Partners--working, learning, sharing, being together. Knowing, caring and, yes, loving each other.
When I close my eyes to dream of what the future of networking could be around the globe, I cannot come up with a more and better image than community.
No, Toto, we are not in Levittown anymore.
JOHN MILTON FOGG
is author of The Greatest Networker in the World.