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  • Susan Belangee

For the love of Lehigh...and coffee

I found this mug in the bookstore before I left campus this past weekend. I returned for the final choir concert of Dr. Steven Sametz's career at Lehigh University. What a weekend it was! As I was drinking coffee from my new mug this morning, I reflected on the singing, the laughs, the community that was recreated for the common purpose of celebrating Doc and his 45 years of accomplishments.

Community for me is essential, as it is for all of us. Even the most introverted person still needs to feel connected to a community, to know that they belong to something more than themselves. Those who know me well know that I am not introverted and usually the first person to say "What can I help with?" That is me in a nutshell - "How can I be of help?" This is one of the best ways I connect with others.

You know, COVID really did a number on us in so many ways. The worst, in my humble opinion, is that it made us hesitant to be around each other, scared of what we could catch or what we might accidentally give to someone else. Perhaps this sense I have is due to my current age and/or stage in life. Regardless, finding and creating community has been impacted because of the pandemic.

Many of my fellow alums this weekend talked about how they are still working from home or have hybrid schedules. They shared the challenges in feeling fully connected to their co-workers or teams and how they have made adjustments or are still figuring out those changes. As I listened, the common thread was about building community. How do we build community when the people aren't there?

I think the key for these post-COVID times is to be creative with the opportunities to foster community. It's also good to remember that each of us is unique and may approach community/belonging in different ways. If someone had said "let's go get coffee" to me 28 years ago I might have turned them down because I didn't drink coffee back then (that story is in another blog post). Now, though, I'm all about the coffee! The bottom line is we all want to be asked to join the group, so offering myriad ways to belong and contribute will inevitably help build community. Even better - ask others to help you with something. They might decline an offer for coffee but if you ask someone to help you with a task, they will feel valued and see that they matter, that their contribution makes a difference. We all benefit from that in the end.

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