In the last month, I’ve worked in a hospital room, at my mother’s kitchen table, from a balcony overlooking a Mexican beach, and in my own living room. My work is location independent, which means I’m free of the confines of a cubicle. It also means I don’t have co-workers in the traditional sense. Sometimes this blows. But as I’ve learned in the face of heartache and disaster over the last few weeks, I am not alone. Far from it, in fact.
When my stepdad was dying a few weeks ago, I shared the experience as it happened via Twitter and Facebook. I needed to reach out, and the easiest way to do it was through the apps on my smartphone that connected me to thousands of people. I tweeted and updated with little thought to what would happen as a result; I just needed to say that I was hurting.
People responded by showering me with love and support. I walked my dad through the valley with an invisible army beside me, silently holding me up. I never once felt alone or like the world didn’t know that it had just been changed.
Last week, Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. My home in Pittsburgh, PA was untouched, but my community was not. It was my turn to march in the silent army.
I’ve virtually held hands with friends as they waited for loved ones to come home, the power to come back on, and the flood waters to recede. I’ve tracked down information about donating and re-tweeted links for local volunteers. And I am just one of many, many more who are safe but sorrowful and determined to offer support.
They say that the world is getting smaller, but usually they are talking about global economies and the affect that the dollar can have on the euro. But it’s also getting smaller for people like me, people for whom the whole, great big, shrinking world is a cubicle.
It’s not just that I know what’s happening in other parts of the country; it’s that I care. I care because my people are there. TV news has been bringing us images from around the world for decades, but it is because of social networks and the relationships we’ve formed that we’ve actually begun to understand what those images mean.
It means we’re all connected.
It means that I woke up this morning chilled, and I immediately thought of my friends on Long Island still living without heat.
It means that we bought diapers for babies who have none.
It means that I have something much better than co-workers and office Christmas parties.
I have a community.
Where do you find your community?