One of the best things about Moo-Saic, our Austin Cow Parade entry, is the community that has developed as the volunteers in our company work on the project together. The cow currently lives in the Bazaarvoice office, and we’ve got some regulars who help us twice a week at lunch, along with various newbies who appear from time to time. It’s a great way to take a break during the workday, relieve some stress by smashing tiles with hammers, and chat with each other while sticking tiles on a fiberglass cow. There aren’t any skill prerequisites, so it’s an easy activity for just about anyone who has an interest in it. I’ve already gotten to know several people I didn’t know before, thanks to Moo-Saic. I’m thrilled that this has truly become a community art project within our company.
Speaking of “community,” lately I’ve been thinking about what that truly means. Everybody from Facebook to Starbucks to Joe the plumber claims that their business is centered on community these days. It seems like we’ve got more piping hot, fresh-baked community than we can handle right now, right? But if that’s the case, why are people still starved for it? Why is it that some people have 500+ Facebook friends, but still struggle to feel that they are “known” by anyone?
I believe that in order to have real community you have to have real conversations. You must know each other. You swap stories. You can be real. You will laugh. You might cry. You help the others in the group. Others come alongside you and help you. You have to give up some of your own desires sometimes for others in the community. Community can feel uncomfortable at first, since living in true community means you have to let people actually get to know you. We’re so used to projecting ourselves in the way we want to appear to others on Facebook that allowing someone get to know the real you can be frightening. But secretly we really do crave those kinds of relationships, even if they scare the bejeezus out of us.
The interesting thing about community is that you can’t force it to happen. My local coffee shop can’t make the regulars who come in on Thursday evenings talk to each other, even if they tried. Community is always organic, always grown, and always driven by the people within it – and never by the structure put around it.
Authentic community is a hard thing to create, and difficult to put your finger on. So, I’m thankful when I happily realize that I’m part of a real one. And I’m thankful for Cowmmunity!