“Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another, “What! You too?’” – C. S. Lewis
We’re naturally drawn to people like us – people who like the same things and hold the same opinions. Even the criticism we feel toward strangers melts as we discover our commonalities with them.
For several years, photographer Brandon Stanton randomly stopped people on the streets of New York. He convinced thousands of wary strangers to tell him their stories while he snapped their photos. Today, the compiled “Humans of New York” is a top-selling book and ongoing social media project. People from all walks of life show that they’re more relatable than they seem at first glance.
Reports abound of captured everyday moments in the lives of celebrities, where readers and viewers express amazement that someone of star status would act so…normal. “They’re just like us!” they exclaim, as though they were something less – or more – than human all along.
The World Economic Forum releases regular reports about the state of the world and the trajectory of its future. In its Global Risks Report of 2022, WEF reported that one of the most critical threats to the world today is “social cohesion erosion.” Basically, it means that people no longer get along as well as they used to, and the rift in society threatens to upend it altogether.
The poet John Donne noted that “no man is an island entire of itself,” but rather, we are all interconnected and interdependent. Even the most fiercely independent off-the-gridders rely on other people, at some point or another, for their very survival. As COVID-19 proved, we don’t function well in isolation.
At Botetourt County Libraries, we take our role in building social cohesion very seriously. The public library is a community hub, where people who have vastly different lifestyles and beliefs come together in the same space. Libraries provide opportunities for us to meet people we might normally criticize or dismiss, and discover that we have more in common with them than not.
Few people experience more criticism than public figures and people who lead…well, anything, even a church choir. It’s easy to forget that these people in the limelight are just like us.
Next week is National Library Week (April 3-9), and we’ve invited some special guests to celebrate with us. Our new “Coffee Connections” series brings county leaders into our libraries for informal conversation with anyone who shows up. The lineup:
John Alexander, Botetourt County Commonwealth’s Attorney
Mandy Adkins, Botetourt Director of Parks & Recreation
Jason Ferguson, BotetourtChief of Fire & EMS
Matt Ward, Botetourt County Sheriff
Amy White, Buchanan District Supervisor
Check BOCOLibraries.org for our calendar and drop by any Coffee Connections event to chat with these hard-working, dedicated, community-focused leaders. Get to know them as people, let them get to know you, and prepare for the moment when you’ll both exclaim, “What! You too?”