Sunday, September 11

Community where you least expect it

Earlier this month I told myself that I would not post on the 9/11 anniversary. We all have memories of that day. My story is no more poignant or noteworthy than most and is less important than many. My story merits no telling.

But then a strange thing happened. I received an email that changed my mind.

In my inbox is an email from the founder of It wasn't a personal email. If you're a Meetup member, you probably have one, too. I'll tell you why it changed my perspective, but let's take care of the important part first.

In the words of Scott Heiferman, Co-founder and CEO of (text excerpted from email):
     I don't write to our whole community often, but this week is special because it's the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and many people don't know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.
     Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought local community doesn't matter much if we've got the internet and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I hoped they wouldn't bother me.
     When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they'd normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being neighborly. A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way.
     So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet -- and grow local communities.
Meetup was launched 9 months later, and is now "home" to 100,000 local groups with a total of more than 10 million members.

I've participated in running, hiking, and book-clubbing meetups. The network has helped me get to know the locals when I've traveled, but most importantly has helped me meet my neighbors when I've moved. Who would have thought that the electronic world would make the in-person one so much more friendly?

Again in Scott's words:
     Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me. They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and motivate each other, they babysit each other's kids and find other ways to work together. They have fun and find solace together. They make friends and form powerful community. It's powerful stuff.
     It's a wonderful revolution in local community, and it's thanks to everyone who shows up.
     Meetups aren't about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it weren't for 9/11.
     9/11 didn't make us too scared to go outside or talk to strangers. 9/11 didn't rip us apart. No, we're building new community together!!!!
So how did this one email change my mind?

The center of my running universe is the San Diego Running Meetup. I've written before about the amazing strength and support of the SDR community, so I'll spare you the sappy love story here.

What I want to focus on today is that a small, concerned group of citizens changed the lives  thousands (maybe millions?) of people for the better.

On an anniversary that is so tragic, I can think of no better tribute than celebrating those who make the world a better place.

11am update: Shortly after (initially) posting this piece, I came across the "30 Days of GOOD" challenge. Today's challenge: Do something nice for a neighbor. Excellent idea.

What would you suggest to make the world a better place?

Photo courtesy of arkorn /


  1. This is a great post.

    Making the world a better place... if everyone would just be a little more courteous that would make a huge difference. Just give a stranger a smile.

  2. Wonderful post. Never knew Meetup was a 9/11 baby- it's amazing how much a tragedy (of any kind) can bring communities closer together, and I'm all for using the interweb to get off the interweb. :) Great stuff. And as for the doGOOD website? Fantastic. :)


Penny for your thoughts?