Note: The following is a letter I wrote for Neighbors of Batavia Magazine in 2008 when I was Executive Director of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce. I found it recently and decided to share it on my blog.
A new book has left me haunted, and keeps me wondering about the proper role of the Chamber of Commerce. We are charged with improving the local economic climate, but, if improving that climate just means more business…more customers…more commerce…more activity, perhaps I’m in the wrong job.
The book is entitled loneliness. The capitalization—or lack thereof—is accurate, and telling. When we’re lonely, it leaves us feeling very small in a large and complex world. By leaving the title in lower-case, the authors insure that even book itself seems smaller and less pretentious.
“However wealthy and technologically adept our societies have become, beneath the surface we are the same vulnerable creatures who huddled together against the terrors of thunderstorms sixty thousand years ago.” As I read this statement, I couldn’t help but juxtapose it against the modus operandi of some of the great TV heroes of my generation. The Lone Ranger, for example, saved the day by revealing that he, and he alone, possessed, and knew how to unleash, the silver bullet.
I had a conversation recently with a Chamber member. She expressed her regret at missing a Chamber event—the demands of her job, and the mountains of work she needed to scale, were simply too great to permit time away from her desk. She has 4-weeks vacation this year, and has yet to take even one day. Every year she is sure the pressure and the expectations can’t possibly increase…only to be proven wrong when the new year struts confidently through her door. The look in her eyes was painful from my vantage point…I can only imagine how it felt from hers. Every time I see her, she too is huddled against the terrors…but she is huddled alone.
So why does the book haunt me? A tool near the beginning shows that I score relatively high on the loneliness scale and one of the key conclusions of the authors’ extensive research is that loneliness appears to be as much a cause of deteriorating health and early death as smoking, poor diet or lack of exercise.
It is no accident that the subtitle for the Chamber’s monthly newsletter is “For the life of your business…and the business of your life.” Once again I am reminded that far too often the business of my life is ill-defined, poorly conceived, and too often simply an afterthought.