After living out in the country for forty years, not that far removed from the proverbial 40 years in the wilderness, the experience of living in town wafts in like fresh spring breezes. Before my only community was my church and my neighborhood, but now I find myself part of a city, and I enjoy actually being part of the Chamber.
I joined the Chamber last month and attended my first luncheon today. First impressions: a sea of people representing businesses from every facet of the community, professionals who take time for the welfare of others, potential friends. Many of the attendees sat with friends and colleagues, so I was just a bit of a country mouse, but I thoroughly enjoyed meeting a few people and listening to discussions.
How do you make the most of the experience? If you own a business or work in a business or love the idea of a business, join. Go to meetings. (I am ordering business cards tonight, since for my writing, everything is online. Big mistake, lol. Take lots of business cards.) Initiate conversations. Ask questions. Find a way to be useful. The local Chamber is networking at its best and most basic level. You will find no other gathering with as much business experience, friendly sharing of information, and encouragement than this.
Most importantly, find a way to give back. One very primary goal of any local chamber is service to the community. Americans have grown accustomed to tax dollars paying for everything from education to road repair, and lost the compulsion to dig in to make things happen…but the lifeblood of the community runs on volunteerism. The chamber thrives on finding ways to enhance the well being of each and every citizen in the community. They need you to be part of that calling. Take some civic pride in being part of a community dating back to good old George Washington and the framers of Constitution, who might very well represent the first Chamber of Commerce in these United States.
Think of your membership in the Chamber of Commerce as your initiation into the inner workings of your community. Be a part of the heart. Be an arm or leg, helping or transporting. Be some rapid firing neurons, training others. I find no shortage of opportunities for service, so seeking the best niche is important. It is okay to take your time and find your place…but you’ll never find it if you never join. I encourage you to take that first step. Invest in yourself and in your community.