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The Common Blog


It’s a little different flair than normal, but it’s one of those where the idea got into my head and I needed to get it out…

I somehow found myself reading what turned out to be an interesting piece this weekend by an economist from the 1800’s. In it I discovered a remarkable application to our idea of volunteering. Bastiat’s argument is about taking into consideration “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen”; the visible effects of our decisions and those which can only, with enough thought and good sense, be foreseen.

Here’s what I came up with. When we give up a Saturday morning to help someone move, or give away a car seat instead of selling it at a garage sale, we can easily make the mistake of stopping there–of seeing only the sleep we missed out on or the money we didn’t make. The immediate return, financially speaking, could be seen as negative. That’s what is visible.

But what about what is not seen? The family that now gets the enjoyment of a slightly used car seat for years and kids to come, or the now-familiar face and friendship with those you helped to move. The long-term benefits usually far outweigh and exceed the short-term inconveniences.

And the crux: Sacrifice. Translated into the structure of, it’s sacrifice within community, for depth and purpose within that context. Connections and stories are what fuel this real and meaningful growth for the individual and the whole.

Honestly, that’s why we’ve structured the way we have. Sure, members exist and respond as individuals, but everything on happens within the context of community. We figured there are enough “me” focused sites out there, and yet we see that people are genuinely pursuing “we”. is simply a tool to better connect people’s needs and abilities within that context, whether it be a church, school, YMCA, city, etc. And with the ability for separate communities to “blend” (when communities “friend” each other to share needs and abilities), the potential for meeting needs both inside and outside the community, increases exponentially.

What motivates you to help? More importantly, what motivates you to make the sacrifices necessary to help?


We received a question at from one of our members that we haven’t seen before, and wanted to share with our loyal readership:

Pam writes: “I am attempting to build a portfolio and was wondering if there was a way to display or account for past activities that I have helped on.”

We’re so glad that you asked! Absolutely, there is a way and it’s accessible through the “My Project History” link which can be found next to your “Things I’m Working On” tab. Here’s a photo to help out:

My Project History Link

Great question, Pam, and good luck with your portfolio! Oh, and thanks to you we’ll be adding this one to the FAQ section on the University page as well.

Have a question? Drop us a line at

24 without facilitators would be like going to a polo match without an ascot; it’s just not quite right. We know that communities are better when they’re connected, but in our quest to let people talk to each other around the goal of service, we don’t want that communication to be done in a vacuum. Facilitators exist to provide, really, just a second set of eyes on a project. What it creates is this beautiful balance–a viral movement in the context of community, safe contact for those vulnerable and compassionate connections where needs meet abilities, and abilities meet needs.

Still have questions? Check out our University page for some helpful videos, or drop a line to us at TheCommon HQ at



This Sunday, our friend Rob Bell turns 40, and celebrates with family–from the stage at Mars Hill with a message on Aging. Now, others less refined might use it as a time to call for attention to themselves, asking for lavish gifts or to be taken to Applebee’s (mmm, shrimp poppers) for lunch, but we’ve come to expect much more from Rob.

Perhaps an indication of what’s to come, we’ve noticed an increasing number of “Support & Care” needs posted here on by some of their blended communities. Our guess: a call for celebration, service, community…so really, a continuation of the core of Rob’s ministry.

Thank you, friend, for sharing the journey with us! We can’t wait to see what happens in the next 40!

Happy Birthday, Rob!
Rob is turning 40

- Team

For more information on service at Mars Hill, click here.


Back on July 12th, the YMCA of the USA officially reintroduced the Y brand–new logo, new colors, and a refocused message on the purpose of the Y. We will all be hearing more in the coming months and years of what this looks like, and no doubt will continue to see lives impacted by the incredible programs of the Y. But what I love most about it all is the focus on the importance of the individual. Again, it’s nothing new–the Y has been about helping people in communities since its inception in 1851–but most people don’t realize that the Y is “more than just a gym.” We are thrilled that gets to play a role in this!

And since you probably haven’t seen it yet, I wanted to share the new PSA which will be airing all over the country in the very near future. I think there’s something we all can learn from its message…

If you’re in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a member of the Y, be sure to register to help out at If you’re at a Y somewhere else, talk with us about how to get TheCommon started in YOUR community! You’re a crucial part of this, and someone in your community waiting for you–to help or be your help! After all, we need each other, right?


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