When you become a member of an organization or club you sometimes have to pay for the privilege. Think of a health club, beach or golf club, or alumni club from your university. All require payments in order to remain a member in good standing. Some club memberships require interviews prior to becoming a member and once accepted there often can be a probationary period where you are expected to behave in a certain fashion. Others like a health club just require that you pay the bill each month.
Memberships to clubs and organizations in which there is not a common goal or cause, does not translate to those members actually becoming a part of a community. When you decide to not pay for the membership anymore you cease being a member and your absence is barely noticeable. However when you are a part of a community – a charitable organization you work with, a group project, or even an athletic team, the bonds are much deeper and the members care for one another in a very special way.
I thought of this while watching the Little League baseball players from Westport, CT (near my current hometown) play in the Little League World Series (LLWS). We locals have read about the exploits of the local heroes all summer and by watching some of the games have become familiar with some of the players and their families. The experiences, (both highs and lows as the Westport team lost in the U.S. final on Saturday,) of these players and their families have undoubtedly forged a community that will remain connected for many years to come. The players and families, (brought together only two plus months ago) started as members of a team and ended up with something much greater. While it’s true that the players and their families may pay to be on the team, (although fundraising for trips to the LLWS is often a big part of the experience), the investment (if any) is modest and the creation of the community borne out of a single shared purpose. It will not only be a summer the player and families will never forget, it will be a time in their lives that they will always remember fondly.
Think about the organizations and teams of which you are a member. Churches, Synagogues and other places of worship are largely all about creating a sense of community. Being an American Express card member does not. Membership most often means having paid the price to join and continuing to pay to remain a member. Being a part of a community has a much greater reward and doesn’t feel like it costs anything at all.
Do you see the difference?