The Value of Community: Cultivating a “Zoom Out” Mindset in the Age of the Selfie

This is dedicated to my community. You know who you are. 

A few months ago I was asked if I would deliver the University of Toronto (Mississauga) Last Lecture to a large group of graduating students. Modelled after the tradition Randy Pausch made popular in 2008, the last lecture is meant to be an occasion where a specially chosen lecturer shares meaningful advice as though the address was their last message to the world. No pressure, right?

After happily accepting the invitation to participate, I spent the next few weeks labouring over what to talk about. I mean, really, what piece of spectacular wisdom could I impart to a large group of twenty-somethings on the cusp of their post-school journey?  

I played around with a few potential topics, but nothing was urgent enough. Then I turned to my beloved community. Reaching out through email, dinner table conversations, phone calls, and Facebook, I asked my connections for their advice.  

They came through. I received plenty of guidance–one friend even collected ideas from her daughter and several of her daughter’s friends (thanks, Mary!). I was buzzing with gratitude for my friends who joined with me in this exciting project. The task seemed much less daunting once I had that precious support of my network.  

 And that’s when the final concept was born: I needed to talk about the value of community.

 I truly believe that authentic human connection is at the core of every great community, and great community is at the core of every great achievement.

As a tribute to all of the wonderful friends, colleagues and family members who ‘people’ my days, make grief manageable, faith possible, life richer, and joy deeper, I crafted a message that urged the graduates to think beyond themselves.