How many followers would come to your funeral?
*Please feel free to skip the blog today and skip right to the end if you don’t have the energy to hold space for someone’s emotions.*
I learned a lot from my Dad about what it takes to have and be a part of a strong community. My Dad did not travel to exotic destinations every 2 months. He didn’t collect people’s names for the sole purpose of telling other people who he knew or how many friends he had. Regardless, I would say my Dad had a life well lived. When he passed away, I felt overwhelmed by the impact he had.
My dad grew up in a small town. You could say he was a small town boy all his life. He moved to another small town, lived in another small town, spent some time in a ghost town, headed west to another small town in a different province and then moved to a city that I love because it has a small-town-feel (a.k.a. Ottawa, ON)
My dad's life experiences did not bring great influence or celebrity status. Growing up, he played and excelled at a lot of sports. He played football, hockey and baseball, the latter 2 into his adulthood. Being a big guy with a competitive spirit and a bit of a mouth, you could say he wasn’t always well-liked. He worked as a butcher at the only grocery store in my hometown when I was growing up. He was also a volunteer firefighter, coach, and umpire. His butchering days were put on hold and he started working at an automotive car parts plant. He quickly rose to a managerial position, and it wasn't because of his many years of experience. He was great with people. People liked him, even as their boss.
My dad was friendly. He would give you the last of what he had. He laughed deeply and freely. These are the memories that rise to the top of my mind when I reflect on his life. Like most humans he was not without his faults. He hurt people he cared about, as we humans tend to do. He battled with mental health and addiction in a time when most people thought that was a weakness of character. I wished for him to be sober when I blew out my candles on every birthday cake. He lived a short life and died one day after his 55th birthday.
At his funeral service, folks came to pay their respects. People who he had not seen in years came to share their stories of how he touched their lives. In that moment, I realized we all live on after we are gone. Not only do we live on through the people we are closest with, we live on in every person we interact with, everyday. High school teachers, former teammates, people who had the opportunity to know him from around town, and long-time friends showed up. The people who I know he had hurt dearly showed up too. I am not sure he realized the community he was a part of while he was alive. I didn’t realize the community I was a part of before I lost him.
I recognize that we don’t all have the luxury of building relationships because we live in the same tiny, geographic location. We do all have the opportunity to show up for others wherever we are. There are lots of lessons I learned from my Dad on what it means to build a community. With tears dripping all over my keyboard, I bring you my Top 5.
The Top 5 Things I Learned About Community from My Dad
Don’t try to build a community. First, be present in front of another human
We are obsessed with celebrity and influencer status, of someday (soon) going viral. You’ve missed the point. Don't show up for your own prosperity or fame. Show up for the goodness of the people around you. Don’t lose your human-ness because you are behind a screen (...or 2 or 4). If you try to build a community without building connections with people, you’re not really building a community that’s worth building. Build a community based on real human interaction.
Don’t take yourself too seriously
Laughter feels so good and hearing another person’s laugh can almost immediately change your mood. Strong emotions like happiness, anger and sadness really help us cement our memories. Since the majority of the population don’t want to be known for evoking anger and sadness, laughter may be the way to go. No need to force some cheesy jokes, just show up as your full self and don't hold back your joy.
Meet people without an agenda
It’s hard in the ol’ entrepreneurial world not to be constantly networking. Your time is valuable and my time is valuable. I get that you want to get to the meat of what someone does to see if they are “worthy” of your time because someone else in the room might be more worthy. Slow your roll and show up without all the expectations. It’ll be wayyyyy more fun and fruitful.
Listen to others more than you talk about yourself
Look people in the eye. Pay attention to their words and expressions and don’t let your mind wander to how you will respond before they are even done talking. This is a practice but is hella rewarding. As humans, we are trained to find ways to connect with other people with what they share with us. We are so eager to share our own experience that relates to what the other person is saying. We often don't realize we've stopped listening.
Tell good stories.
People hear the mundane details of the life that everyone lives. "How’s your day?" "Great, how was yours?" "Meh." After 8 words, I know zilch, nada, zero things about you. Share your failures. Share the times you were human. Share them proudly.
Even though losing someone sucks the big one, the learning, pain and growth it shares space with is unmatched. I am beyond grateful for all of you wonderful people in my life. I am thankful to be a part of your community and have you be a part of mine.