Build Bridges, Not Fences

As a Contestant in Toastmasters, Division level Table Topics Contest (Impromptu Speech), I was asked to speak on “Name one thing that I felt is a cause to most of the problems in the world, today”.

I said that the one thing that is a cause to most of the problems in the world today is “Selfishness”. I went on to elaborate on the topic reinforcing facts and embellishing it with a quote from the great Mahatma Gandhi, “there is enough in this world to satisfy human need, but there is not enough in this world to satisfy human greed”

Winning that Contest was a mere act of providence, perhaps it was my day….but that topic and my articulation stayed in my mind for several days…before actually getting erased  from my memory.

Until recently, when I saw two of my neighbors in the compound trying to build picket fences around their respective villas, there by physically narrowing the pathway between their villas in an attempt to increase the virtual distance between them….

It got me thinking of the situation and my attempt at the Table Topic…

Many of my age and generation would speak of their childhood lives with a lot of nostalgia and regret.

Where we lived in a very close-knit community. One person’s problem became a community problem…where whether it was a crisis or a moment of celebrations, every one used to partake in the same and share both the joys and sorrows alike…most of us wonder with great regret…where have those days gone…

The art of community living, which was so prevalent, enjoyable and so much part of our lives….where has this disappeared…and why?

Community….that beautiful word, where every single one of us feels a deep psychological need for it.

But over the years, it is the “selfishness” or “self-centeredness” of mankind that got the better of him…we started building “fences” around us…around our families…to block out neighbors, to insulate ourselves…to maintain privacy…and foster separateness.

Nuclear families and gated communities became the order of the day… while we remained insulated from the joys and sorrows of those around and started living in our respective insulated cubicles, we started losing the much needed connection…we lost our abilities to reach out ….we started losing out on the art of community living.

As a child, I used to live in one such community with a whole bunch of, friends…in small and cozy compound called, Yarada Park, in the coastal town of Visakhapatnam. Yarada Park was a microcosm of India. We had neighbors from different parts of India, spoke different languages, were of different religious beliefs but it was a community where there were hardly any differences, everyone had a place of respect in the community, each contributed his might and kept the community moving in the true spirit of sharing and harmony. It is this spirit, that entailed most of the children raised in YP, went on to develop into truly global citizens with a cosmopolitan outlook and a positive attitude. ….

I feel a strange sense of longing for such a life. I think it is not just about me, but basically we all crave for having a great community and come to think of it,…. it is a deep psychological need…where we all crave to belong….to know that we are part of a larger “whole”. It gives us a sense of security. Safety…and happiness.

We should strive to bring that sense of community living back into our lives.

As part of the Corporate world, we have seen that the best organizations foster community and build workplaces where people feel safe to be themselves… to be part of the “whole”.

May be we should make this idea to transcend the boundaries of our workplaces… to take it out into the larger world..

Yes, we should stop worrying about building fences and instead create true security by building bridges!


More by :  Suresh Kalathil

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