Monday, December 28, 2009

Identity, partnership and community

I have always been a private person. When I was young and small, I was shy. Somewhere during my undergrad days, I became someone who took some effort to know. Later, I grew into private.

The head of my college at Trent knew about me through English tutorials and Master's dinners. When someone told him to mention my soccer skills at a dinner, he thought they were trying to embarrass me. He knew the me who had a quick mind and a quick tongue in tutorials. He didn't know I could take a hit on the soccer field - or kick the ball farther than girls much bigger and stronger than I was.

I've always been hard to pull together and fit into a box - even for me. So it is harder and easier for me to fit my identity into larger entities. I stick with the groups I join - often for a long time. I let myself be part of things I do not own and cannot control, even when it means I drag myself, kicking and screaming - through bad meetings and bad decisions. I am good at honoring what works.

When I agreed to join two partners in a business, I felt a little like I had agreed to bungie jumping. It meant playing my part and allowing the whole of the partnership to determine whether I crashed or soared. It meant trusting someone else to keep the other end of the rope secure. It didn't come easily but it felt like the right thing to do.

Seven years later, we are a partnership of two that has grown to be a community. We talk about 'our' company, but increasingly we mean that we belong to a community that depends on us for some kinds of nurture. It means something to be the voice of a community - it means something to be part of its heart. It means that I have influence without the illusion of control, and that I act in the presence of other needs and other hopes. It means admitting that I am not entirely private any longer.

This is the line we walk in this work - the line between what can be kept private and what is necessary to nourish a whole community.

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