I never played organized sports when I was young, just the usual pick-up games of baseball on our street and kick-the-can with other neighborhood kids. We generally had a shared understanding of the rules of the games, of course. We may have argued about some, even angrily, but mostly we negotiated our way through to a compromise so we could get on with the game. The fun of play was what brought us together. It was that, and seeing ourselves as teams, albeit rag-tag looking ones as most pick-up teams tend to be. We played the roles at which we were strongest, filled in when someone couldn’t join us, and still played when we were short-handed, just because we enjoyed being out there together.
As a father of two now-grown boys who both played water polo and soccer, I came to understand the discipline, conscientious training, individual commitment and good coaching it takes for athletes to achieve excellence. The camaraderie that I saw my boys relish had the same spirit – at exponential levels sometimes when competition was heated and league titles were close – that I felt playing sports in the neighborhood with my friends.
Fast forward to today at Community Partners, and to the teams and work groups whose day-to-day efforts support all the other teams out in the communities of the region helping to carry out the missions of our 163 sponsored projects and other organizational activities. What a pleasure to see things come together among groups of disparate, diverse, even sometimes contentious people striving to reach the some often very difficult aims.
Ours isn’t the kind of work that results in box scores or trophies, and certainly not the bragging rights that a baseball win against the guys from the next block would confer on the winning team. But at its best, the result of our work – sometimes tough in the doing, but almost always meaningful in the result – is the simple fun and enjoyment that comes of doing something significant together.
We held our monthly all-staff meeting the other day, a common “rule” of workplaces that most organizations practice. Periodically we gather and share updates, ideas and information to keep all of us on the same page. We opened with a quick go-round the conference room with everyone prompted by the question, “If you could have any skill you wanted, what would it be?” The answers were frank (savvier investment skills), whimsical (super-hero powers), searching and, more than anything, fun to hear. We laughed, ooohed and ahhhed, nodded our heads in agreement, especially at the large number of people who wanted more artistic or creative abilities.
Then we sat down for the “serious” work of the meeting – the presentations and the discussions. And the enjoyment of playing together on this vast civic field that is Community Partners and Southern California stayed with us. We kept laughing, listening intently to one another, looking for the signals that took us through the game of meeting from beginning to end. And, when we finished and began filing out of the conference room individually and in small clusters, back to our workspaces or out to other meetings and appointments, I detected in the camaraderie among colleagues just a tad of that same shared human appreciation that bridges the differences too often separating us from one another. I sensed the camaraderie of knowing that we’re here for now and the foreseeable future and on this team together, so why not enjoy one another while we can.
"ravens a' circling" by mitchell haindfield (CC by 2.0)