|From L to R, Ben Lueders, myself, and Matthew Smith being silly at the Big Omaha photo booth.|
Earlier today, I was a guest on the PraireCast podcast. I was asked my thoughts about Big Omaha, and one of the things I touched on was community.
When I went to Big Omaha two years ago, I was just starting to enter into the “Silicon Prairie community”.* I didn’t know anyone else that attended. At times, I felt like a bit of an outsider. This year, it seemed I couldn’t walk twenty feet without talking to someone I knew. I had people come up to me wanting to talk about all sorts of topics. It was a rewarding experience.
*A hodgepodge of creatives, entrepreneurs, professionals, techies and people who love and support the Omaha area. You can usually find any of us on Twitter chatting away about something.
Rewarding in the sense of being and feeling part of a community. It’s not like I had to go through any initiation, or pay membership dues, to be a part of it. My identity is not found in it. No, it was just being involved and supporting the community the past two plus years. It’s putting down roots in the city. It’s showing up to Big Omaha and other events. It’s being a part of conversations happening online, and offline, about things happening in the area. It’s helping someone out, even if they are a complete stranger.
I think there is something special about this area. I’m fascinated, and encouraged, by the support people have for one another to succeed. Even if it is a competitor, they see it as Omaha succeeding. I think it goes beyond “midwestern nice”.
One of the things I appreciated was the number of people asking how my work is going. I work at a church. I’m a pastor. I’m an unabashed follower of Jesus. And yet, it was touching to hear from people, who don’t share my beliefs, ask about my work. Again, is it midwestern nice? Am I being Pollyanna? Maybe, but I think it is more than that. I think it’s friends and acquaintances I’ve gotten to know the past few years who genuinely want things to go well for me. I think it’s people wanting good things to happen for the greater good of Omaha and the surrounding area. I think it’s people building community now and for the future.
The civility and depth of conversations were great. It could be easy to think that’s easy to happen in an atmosphere like Big Omaha, but how does this translate once the conference is over? You keep at it. You keep trying. You stay consistent with the message and delivery of it.
To see, and experience, the growing depth of community, here in Omaha, is a wonderful thing. Looking forward to the future here.