On Community, Music & Taking Breaks

On Community, Music & Taking Breaks

Note: This post originally appeared in the Gather Community Consulting Newsletter. Get future newsletters by subscribing at the form below this post.


I didn’t want to write this newsletter. After a big launch last week, I was simply tired of all that “doing” that must be done in preparation to gather people. You're reading this, so I already know you know how this feels.

I knew I wasn't going to be tired forever, but I needed a moment to acknowledge: “I’m exhausted. And that’s okay.”

When you are tired, you lose inspiration, and then you cannot serve anyone. Yet, on many teams and through many launches, it's more common than not to blaze right through big events and keep on going. In this line of work we do, that’s not an option. If you're longing to look back at how far you've come, you're not alone.

I solved my problem by refusing to write this newsletter. I put it off. I gave myself permission to wait a few hours, then a few days.

Finally, late last week, I took a long walk.

I listened to the sounds of the city of Seattle, the cranes and trains and birds chirping.

I made eye contact with people as we passed on the street, and I smiled.

I found a large veranda of an open building downtown. I sat down on a round, mid-century modern couch, surrounded by strangers sitting in metal chairs eating their lunches.

Then I put on headphones and turned up the volume.

And I just let it be.

As I sat, I remembered a time when a community builder told me he healed his communities with blues music. He said he had once brought together a group in Atlanta, Georgia, who had been deeply divided by racial tension and violence. They tried to facilitate a healing discussion. But words could never capture what they experienced, so people kept hurling words back and forth but nothing would sink in.

Finally, someone came up to the front of the room and pulled a guitar out of its case and just started singing the blues. One note, two, then voices rising, until everyone was singing and humming and tears wet their cheeks. 

(Singing together actually creates greater affiliation in groups. Want to know how to bond people who don't seem to have much in common? Have them sing, preferably in very large groups.)

The music didn’t solve anything. There was no solving or right or wrong. Only trying, only showing up. 

When I finally let this memory pass, I got to writing. Only when my head was clear, only when I felt good and ready.

The world will tell you lots of things about how you need to be perfect, to hustle, to do “important” things, to befriend the “right” people to be successful. That's utter nonsense. You can't do anything with all that chatter going on to distract you. 

For us, it often takes a walk, music, a deep breath. You need that before you snap back to the work. And you will snap back, just as I did in writing this.

Here it is. Proof. 

P.S. I just saw Thunderstorm Artis perform last week. Would recommend. He's an Oahu-born singer/songwriter. We all sang "Shallow" together in a sing-a-long in a dive bar on a Tuesday night. 🍻 

Your friendly neighborhood community builder 💛

Carrie Melissa Jones
Founder, Gather Community Consulting

In my last newsletter, I wrote about how vulnerability feels when you create it online. You can now read that on the blog

Here are some more resources for your week:

  1. Looking for music to inspire you? A few years ago, community builder Rachel Medanic crowdsourced this Spotify list from community managers

  2. One of my clients, the Elizabeth Warren Digital Organizing Team + Mobilize, launched their community this week. Why, yes, that’s why I’m so tired, and I'm not alone - great work is never done alone! You can check out the community if you're curious. Regardless of your political preference, it’s fun to see how technology can shift how folks participate in the campaign process.

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