6.15. Just Down the Street, in a Different World

We have to make an intentional effort to connect people from different local communities.

We have a tendency, when we think of communities, to think on a really small scale—like our own local communities—or to think on a really large scale, in terms of huge groups like race, gender, or nationality.

We can forget about the space in between those two extremes.

It won’t do to just hunker down and only focus on our own small, local communities.

For one thing, our local communities—even when they’re pretty diverse—just can’t capture the diversity and complexity of everybody on this planet.

There are 7.5 billion people alive today. And only a few hundred or thousand live immediately around you.

We aren’t just talking about 1%, or 0.1%. We’re talking about 0.000001% of humanity that you live near and interact with on a daily basis.

That small slice of humanity may feel very diverse. But by just about every measure—whether it’s race, income, religion, or nationality—we’re around people who are much more similar to us than different.

It messes with our heads. Because we tend to project what we see in our own daily lives onto the rest of the world—even though it’s such a small fraction of the whole.

It fools us into thinking that building communities and solving our problems would be easier than they really are. Because we imagine that what we experience is representative of everything else that’s out there—when, in fact, the rest of the world is so much more diverse and complicated.

The same thing happens when we think of communities on too big of a scale—we make things seem simpler than they really are. We miss the enormous diversity and complexity that exists within these big groups.

That’s why I think if we really want to strengthen our communities, we have to make an intentional effort to connect people from different local communities.

We have to actively seek out people from different locations, with different experiences, struggles, and perspectives.

People who live in the same city, just a few miles apart, can live in different worlds.

People who live in urban, suburban, and rural areas, in different countries, or in different income brackets, have totally different experiences of their everyday lives, and totally different perspectives on what issues are most pressing.

We have to make a deliberate effort to understand that. Because if we don’t, we’re going to fall into that trap of thinking things are easier than they really are.

We’re going to demonize people for not seeing what looks obvious to us.

We’re going to feel more sure that we know how to fix everything than we should be.

The good news is, we often don’t have to travel that far to find people living totally different lives than we do.

Furthermore, people are interesting! It’s informative, moving, and humbling to experience for yourself the immense diversity of human experience. To learn why people think, feel, believe, and behave the way they do.

I’m not aware of any organizations that really try to facilitate this. But I’d love to see them become popular. Because I think the in-between space of community-building is the most neglected—even though, in many ways, it’s the most essential.


This is the 107th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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