By Jim Beall
Beall Financial Planning
Social media is a useful tool to stay in touch with old friends and acquaintances. It can come in handy when the unexpected occurs. Recently, a friend’s family was traveling home to Georgia when their car broke down in North Carolina. After the call from his wife, my friend called his friend who lived nearby in NC and asked if he could help. Despite not having seen each other in 16 years, the friend went and helped out his old friend’s family. The Good Samaritan was a fraternity brother of ours from 30 years ago and happened to be the mayor of a small town, but friendship matters more than titles and a little time out of your day is not a great sacrifice to maintain and strengthen a bond.
It is just as important, though, if not more important, to maintain and strengthen your local community of friends and acquaintances. My family was recently overwhelmed by the love and support of our community of friends who have lent a helping hand when our child had to have surgery.
The surgery went very well, and recovery is ongoing. My wife and I knew at least 14 of the staff at the hospital from either school, scouting, church, or from being involved in activities with them through the community. We were fortunate that we could get the care our child needed locally and did not have to travel for treatment. We are blessed to have so many friendships.
A great place to start with strengthening your community is with your neighbors. You might not see them often, as their schedule might not match yours or they may be in a different stage of life than you are. I don’t know all of mine well, but I know most of their names, and we can discuss the issues affecting the neighborhood, like crime. The old neighbors can help out the new neighbors who don’t have a mower yet. We can coordinate efforts to return a lost pet.
Other places to strengthen your community are through your work, church, kids’ school, and the events that happen locally, from the many festivals and concerts to attending civic events.
The best thing about strengthening your community by becoming engaged in it is that it doesn’t have to cost you anything other than time. The rewards can be immense. Maybe that new friend needs to hire you. Maybe your friend from church needs to buy what you are selling. Perhaps the friend you bump into at the concert in the park introduces you to his friend, who becomes your spouse or client or boss or maybe just an acquaintance.
Your community is not just the people you interact with online or the people you bonded with due to shared past experiences. It’s more than your neighbors.
Your community is your town, and all the people that live there. All too often, though, we tend to avoid or ignore parts of our community that are different from us.
For instance, in Middle Georgia, our local community has an issue where a large portion of the population is economically poor. Many people in our community have little physical wealth. They may have a vast network of friends, they may even have a robust support system, but they struggle financially.
There won’t be one magical program that lifts them out of poverty. There won’t be a sudden influx of wealth into the community to lift all of us up. It is our responsibility as members of this community to help our neighbors when they need it.
We tend to hope the government or some church will step in and solve the problems we have. We might even donate items we no longer need or some cash to help out our impoverished community members. That is helpful, but often, what is w needed is not a handout but a helping hand. The community needs our time and commitment. It can be as simple as listening. It can be as easy as teaching your skills to the unskilled. It can be as complicated as helping less-knowledgeable people navigate the healthcare system to get them the treatment they need. It can be showing them how to apply for that job they are qualified to do, but they don’t have a phone or access to email, and that is what the job application requires.
We need to show up at community meetings–not to yell at each other like the pundits on TV but to work out solutions, to discuss problems, and to work together to build each other up. We should strive to make our community one that is thriving for everyone.
We need to show up at the concerts, the festivals, and other events that bring us together to celebrate. It doesn’t have to be all work and no play: to strengthen your community, you have to show up and be open to new ideas and new acquaintances.
You may wonder what this has to do with financial planning or managing your money. If your community is thriving, then there are more opportunities for you. If it isn’t thriving, then there are fewer opportunities.
Life isn’t just about making money or spending money. You don’t lie on your deathbed or in the hospital thinking that you wish you had made one more sale or closed on a deal. You think about your family and your friends. You wish you had spent more time with them and doing things together. You don’t want to be alone. You will want someone you trust by your side.
Get out there and meet others in our community, make new friends. Do something to connect with the ones you have. Don’t spend all your time looking at a screen, whether it’s a small one like your phone or a large one in your living room. Make the time in your life today to strengthen your community and not just your online one, but your local, real-life community.
You never know when you might need them.