Words of Wisdom for
Leadership, Learning, and Life in
Exactly 99 Words

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2013 Brian Remer
Updated Sept. 2013


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99's on the 9th

Ideas based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.

 

 

 

 

September 2013

Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.

How Big Is Home?
Driving across the New York interstate, a car approached from behind. With lights flashing and horn blaring, a middle-aged couple smiled and waved enthusiastically as they sped past. "Hey, what's up," I thought. Then I noticed their license plate: Nebraska, just like mine but a county across the state I'd never visited. I waved and smiled emphatically.

The three of us had yet to meet but here, a thousand miles from home, we were neighbors, even friends. We could have exchanged gossip at a diner!

The farther you are from home, the bigger home becomes.

 

Discussion
You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.

 

Interpretation
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.

No one lives or works in a vacuum. If we want to make change - if we want to get something done - we are highly dependent on the help we receive from others. And the degree to which people are willing to help us is dependent upon the relationships we have with them. This is true in our communities, our offices or factories, and in our own families. In this sense, our relationships have value. This is what is meant by the term "social capital."

Social capital is based upon the common, every-day, "casual" contact with people we meet on the street or at the water cooler. We are more likely to help someone we have a relationship with than we are likely to help someone we don't know. When our relationships are strong, we may even go out of our way to be helpful.

Some of us feel awkward meeting new people and turning those acquaintances into meaningful contacts or friendships. Others seem to have a natural ease and grace in new social situations. They are like cocktail party hosts who greet each guest, make sure the new person feels welcome, and introduces them to someone by helping identify common interests. Then the host slides out of the way to greet more guests. This is the essence of social networking. It's much more than just collecting business cards or "likes" on Facebook.

Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, has identified two types of social networks that benefit when individuals have a wealth of social capital. Bonding networks are those groups of people who have a similar affinity. Members share a common culture, history, language, hobby, business interest, or professional affiliation. Bonding networks can be formal or informal including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Sunrise Baptist Church, an aerobics class, a children's play group, or the product development team in your organization.

But healthy communities don't flourish when groups function as independent silos of activity. Putnam also identifies bridging networks that cross divisions of specialization lending strength and opening options for large scale undertakings. Bridging networks are often focused on a commonly shared interest or concern such as a cross-division project group, a regional planning team, an association of non-profit development professionals, or a group of educators, law enforcement professionals, business leaders, and mental health counselors who want to address underage drinking.

What opportunities exist in your organization for boosting both bonding and bridging networks? The wealth of social capital is built through a combination of skills and attitudes which can be learned including…

We usually have more comfort building bonding networks but strong, diverse communities have solid bridging networks too. They can be more difficult to establish. But, as the 99-Word Story demonstrates, we are hungry to find commonality with others. That commonality may be as simple as a similar license plate yet that can be enough to begin earning interest on our bank of social capital. And when we are rich in social capital, we are at home everywhere.

For more information:

Building Communities from the Inside Out by John McKnight, ACTA Publications, Chicago, 1993.

Members of Each Other by John O'Brien & Connie Lyle O'Brien, Inclusion Press, Toronto, 1996.

Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000.

Better Together by Robert Putnam & Lewis Feldstein, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2003.

Creating Community Anywhere by Carolyn R. Shaffer & Kristin Anundsen, Tarcher/Putnam, 1993.

 

Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.

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