What benefits do you see in adding value to the community? In your eyes, why is it important to add value?
Being a member of a community means more to me than showing up. It means supporting and being supported, and there always should be more give than take. The more we do for others, the more fulfilled we become. I feel that adding value to a community can be as simple as lending an ear when it’s needed, or as complex as helping friends develop marketing plans and/or redefine structure in their novels. What you give is less important than the fact that you do give.
Do you think you are alone in feeling that way, or are there others in the community that you believe share your ideals?
Alone? No, never. I surround myself with like-minded people, and I share my values with others. Not all are open to paying-it-forward, but I think most people I come in contact with are. The World Literary Café is built around that premise, and we find that those who live with that in mind tend to remain active members of the community.
Why do you think people are resistant to adding value? And how have you overcome that fear or resistance in your interactions with the community?
I’m not sure people are resistant to adding value. Some people are fearful of others gaining more than they do, or perhaps it’s simple attitudes of competition. In my community, the literary community, writing is not a competitive sport; there’s room for all to succeed. Outreach is multitudes wider with community. Therefore, the attitude of “me” rather than “we” rarely works.
As writers, we have the ability to help literacy grow. We can promote reading and writing. I hold Aspiring Authors programs for children, which I think adds tremendous value to the community as a whole. Creative endeavors are good for children’s self-confidence, and hone skills that will be beneficial to them as they grow up.
Do you think that there’s an ethos or method to adding value that can be cultivated, developed or learned?
Yes, give more than you receive, in every situation, in every facet of your life. It’s that easy.
What first lead you to this way of thinking? Has anyone or any event in your life inspired you and your opinions on adding value? Could you share with us a story about that person or event?
I grew up watching a mother who did for everyone else 24/7. She instilled the notion of never judging others, accepting everyone, and reaching out in any way possible. To this day, I strive to be the woman she is, and I know I will never reach the pinnacle of who she is, but being completely selfless is a tremendous goal.
On the flip side of adding value is receiving value; people don’t always find that easy. Do you have any experience or thoughts about what it means to receive well?
I’m horrible at receiving. I tend to tuck away kudos in my pocket and point out others who are more worthy. To receive is glorious. It gives validation, but to receive that validation and understand that it’s not what matters is even more glorious.
What’s the greatest insight you’ve received from your work?
That would depend on which “work” you are talking about. From running The Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women that I founded, I’d have to say that perspective is everything. From the World Literary Café the insight that I’ve gained is that people need people. We need a path, and we need to know there are gentle hands to guide us. From my family I’ve learned that none of anything else in life matters beyond health. Happiness comes from within, not from material things or what we’ve achieved—how we treat others, in the long run, is just about all that matters. The rest will follow. Karma is a great equalizer.
Do you see a vision or ideal behind your work, something that ties it all together in terms of what draws you to it?
Yes, I am a positivity preacher, and for me, helping people see the positive side of life (any life) means being able to pull out the good in any situation, even the difficult ones. What I do, across the board, with TWN, WLC, or in my personal relationships, is pluck out those positive petals and share them.
There are many ways to add value. What would you recommend to others as a good starting point to begin adding value to their communities?
Remove your ego from every decision you make.
Do you believe everyone can benefit, if everyone is adding more into the community than they take out? What do you imagine that community to be like?
I think paying-it-forward is contagious, and yes, everyone can benefit.
Is there anything else that you would like to add – any final thoughts?
I was worried about what types of questions I would encounter with a general statement of “adding value to the community” and what I learned about myself through this is that my ideas are pretty consistent in all aspects of my life. I knew that, but somehow, this drove it home. Thank you. This has been very enjoyable and I love anything that promotes introspection. I am so pleased you are promoting this topic.
Melissa Foster is a New York Time and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes contemporary romance, new adult, contemporary women's fiction, suspense, and historical fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page.
"...a stunningly impactful read."
"Psychological suspense at its best"
"...powerful in story, beautiful in its reality, and simply unforgettable."