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Openness to Encounter

For most of us during childhood we are surrounded by an intimate network of friends and family. We are not required to step outside from this circle of people. This all begins to change as time passes. By the time we enter university or employment we begin to symbolically as well as literally “move-out” of our homes. This can be daunting.

At the very same time we are encouraged by all to actively “network”, to build up a map of contacts who can help us advance in the world. The comfort and intimacy of an inner circle, it seems, can be switched out for what can easily become a superficial list of connections. This is perhaps too harsh, and not to mention too simple, an account of what networking can be.

Indeed, recently a very successful form of networking took place at the Cardinal Hume Centre under the auspices of Together for the Common Good. The event brought together young Christian professionals from around London. Drinks and food were shared, conversations had, and a group discussion took place over the nature of the Common Good. This debate centered on three examples of the Common Good at work: in the collaboration of Bishops Worlock and Sheppard in the 1980s; the employment of ex-prisoners; and the resettlement of refugee children.

One additional theme also emerged that was particular striking given the “networking” nature of the event:

How can we pursue the Common Good within the context of our own personal and professional lives?

As young professionals encouraged to forge our careers and steam on at seemingly any cost to success, it was good to momentarily step back and ask what the Common Good might mean to us on a day-to-day basis. When we are “networking” are we constantly casting our eyes around to spot a more successful or influential person to approach? Are we treating the people we meet as persons or as objects? These are good questions to ponder throughout our professional lives.

Building on these reflections, it becomes apparent that “networking” does not have to be about our own advantage, or about replacing a circle of authentic friends with a list of superficial contacts. Rather, networking among all generations, not just the young, can be about cultivating the Common Good. We never know when we might be forming links that will produce real and positive change somewhere in the future. We never know what may become of forming a link with a new person if we enter such an encounter with an open heart. 

Suffice it to say, the event that took place in the Cardinal Hume Centre was a real success and let us hope that the links made there will bear fruit in time to come. Certainly, the subsequent excursion to a local pub was the first positive outcome of such an event – here’s to many more!

William Kent

Photo by Emily Ind