Community, a Saving Grace

Human Connections Matter .. Especially When You Need Them Most

Earlier this month, a vibrant figure in the voiceover community passed away. I didn’t know Brad Venable, but the love expressed for him and the shock and immense sadness over his sudden death from those who did tells me that many of us would have been all the richer if we had.


What is most touching is the way that the voiceover community has rallied around his widow to honor his memory, while creating a fundraiser to benefit his family. Brad was a VO coach, as well as a top VO talent, and ten of his favorite fellow coaches have donated one hour each of their services to a single prize that will be awarded in a raffle.


The voiceover community is especially good at developing warm personal and professional relationships among its members. It’s a very generous community, with so many people willing to share resources, ideas, and even referrals to voiceover jobs with fellow talent. It’s easy to find plenty of good, free advice on voiceover Facebook groups, with many top talents, coaches, and even agents chiming in to answer questions or clarify confusing situations. Conferences like VO Atlanta are friendly and inclusive and welcoming to even the most beginner voice artists (like me, way back when!).


Large or small – it doesn’t matter. Community, like family, is the foundation for human civilization. It satisfies the basic social need imbedded within our human psyches. At its best, it supports us emotionally, shores up our confidence, provides safety, and gives us safe means to vent our frustrations. Our communities may be a small circle of friends and family or a large network that encompasses work colleagues, fellow students and teachers, or our neighbors whom we bump into regularly in the grocery store down the street.


Communities can also be temporary, created for a singular purpose. Members agree to come together to work on a common goal and then disband after it’s complete. I have several new communities formed since the beginning of this year to work on specific goals. One is a business accountability group for 2021, in which we only focus on the progress we make in building our respective voiceover businesses. Another is with a single accountability partner for each of us to focus on our on-camera acting work, so that we can keep each other moving forward to accomplishing specific targets we had set for ourselves this year. A third community is a group that meets regularly for acting workshops, classes, and coaching.


Zoom itself has enabled so many wonderful virtual communities to come together. Just last night, cousins of my husband’s all joined a Zoom call for a family reunion, where the teens and young adults were able to meet and connect for the first time. Today, I was told of a distant family member who had suddenly died over the weekend in South Africa, but whose funeral and memorial service were attended virtually today by nearly 100 friends and family members from around the world. Two clergy officiated at the service, though physically distant: one in South Africa and the other in New York. Who could imagine this happening ten years ago?


My exercise classes, taken at home via Zoom, have become communities, too. It’s not the same as being all together in person, of course, but it’s a fair substitute and I’m very grateful for the technology that makes it possible. And when we do finally emerge from this pandemic and can come face to face again, it’ll be like greeting long-lost friends, though some of us have never met in person. And with some members living across the country or even overseas, it seems like a modern version of the pen pal (of which I had over a dozen when I was in my teens!).


Community can be as simple as a phone call to a single person. My son is working from our home during this pandemic, as are many of his friends who graduated from college with him last spring. Not surprisingly, they’re tired of hanging out with their parents day in and day out and eager to associate more with each other. Today, he took a walk with a friend. Well, a virtual but still physical walk. They caught up by phone while they each walked around their respective neighborhoods. Again, not the same as hanging out in the same physical space, but a fair approximation when you have to be separated by distance and health mandates.


You can’t help but feel communal when you’re just walking around your neighborhood, nodding in greeting to others and occasional petting their dogs (who feel community with just about any human who’ll rub their bellies). I enjoy the Nextdoor app, which brings all sorts of pertinent information to neighbors and provides a communal feeling – at least when people are not arguing over politics – with useful information about scheduled road construction or community problems that need to be addressed, referrals for home repair services, and plenty of forums for gripes about city government, dealing with kids bored with at-home learning, and so on.


It’ll be interesting to see how the different forms that community has taken on during this pandemic will play out when we can final and fully emerge from our cocoons. Will we be more appreciative of each other’s physical company? Will we look forward to working together with our colleagues in person rather than via video conferencing? We’ll most certainly see plenty of folks patronizing restaurants and bars with friends and attending sporting and entertainment events with crowds of like-minded people. It certainly would be nice if this prolonged time of forced isolation helps us appreciate one another and not take each other so easily for granted.


I expect Zoom and other types of video conferencing will remain as cost-effective means of working and meeting remotely, whether for business or personal use. They’re playing an important role in developing and maintaining community, and in many ways they’re the natural successor to the telephone and multi-way conference calling. The attempts at video conferencing back in the early 90s have finally seen an easy, cost-effective (and often free!) way for anyone with a computer and an internet connection to set up a session wherever they may be located.


This video technology has helped us build and maintain community on a larger and more personable scale than was ever physically possible before. Our emotional connections are stronger with the ability to remotely see one another. Not surprising – we’re visual creatures. Just like film and TV often make a bigger impact on the average person than a voice on the radio (sorry, fellow VO talent!) – perhaps because more of our senses are actively engaged.


Whichever medium we use, however, serves to extend the eyes, ears, and mouths of our bodies beyond the physical to reach the mind and hearts of others. And that’s what really counts, especially when we need to be physically distant. Fortunately, with modern technology, while we’re physically apart, we can be emotionally together. And that sense of community leads to warming hearts and supporting happier lives.