From Barahona to Boerne: The Essence of Community

November 26, 2008

This year has been a whirlwind. In 2008, I somehow managed to move across town (again), turn 23, hear Oprah deliver a commencement speech, endure the loss of a beloved dog, leave a big company in pursuit of a dream, travel to the Dominican Republic, become engaged, get robbed at knife point, learn to wake board, and find my new job here, at Digett. In that order.

Choosing just one occurrence to describe in this short blog post leaves me feeling that no matter what I write about, I'll be leaving out something I shouldn't, because inevitably I'll pass up an opportunity to divulge an equally pivotal lesson. But nothing could have prepared me better for my current role as the Editor of Boerne Today than what happened in August during my trip to Barahona, a small province about three hours south-west of Santo Domingo approaching the Dominican Republic-Haiti border.

Lessons learned the hard way

It was in this small Caribbean town that I was proposed to and aggressively robbed, within a one-hour time span. As my new fiancé and I walked hand-in-hand on the isolated, idyllic pebbled beach back toward the village, a masked man and his accomplice followed us until they were close enough to attack. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon. They were screaming at us in Spanish as we both struggled to fight for our bags. Determined to keep my things, I struggled against one of the men until a long fishing knife was put to my new fiancé's throat. At that point, we surrendered and gave the men our things. They immediately sprinted back down the beach in the opposite direction. The keys to our lodge, the digital camera, and my engagement ring were among just a few of the belongings the thieves made away with.

Jolting moments reveal a path of purpose

By my estimates, the likelihood of something like that happening to a couple just after becoming engaged is slim to none. Nothing like that had ever happened in Barahona. Despite this tainting episode, it was the people of this small town who revealed to me friendship beyond language and the soul-satisfaction of a community forged around true compassion.

The whole city rallied around us. The friends we made rode through the streets looking for the culprits. The police force escorted my fiancé back to the beach to look for any evidence. They found my beach bag, torn and empty. Our driver's mother sewed it back together. Our amigo, Heidi, took us on a long hike through the woods and taught us how to find mangoes. We swam together in a natural pool with freezing water. People gave us gifts, invited us into their homes, and prepared food. I had never seen a community come together in such an all-encompassing way.

Barahona

Significance for Boerne Today

I continue to find myself fascinated by the challenges of building an online, niche community. It's become increasingly apparent that in order to distinguish ourselves from other local news sources and paint a true portrait of our purpose we need to clearly define our fundamental values and core message. These fundamental values are no different than many of the principles the Dominican culture already holds. There's a striking similarity between it all.

This endeavor of establishing a firm code of ethics is not only critical in fashioning engaged users, but for the staff as well. It will be these standards of simple living, quality of life, sustainable living, and spirituality that guide our content and provide context for the thriving Boerne community. I wish we could create something of such caliber and quality for every small-town community across the world. If we could, Barahona would be first on my list.

So, yes—some truly great experiences, and some very bad. The important thing about these experiences is not so much that I've had them, but what I'll take from them and carry with me throughout my life and in the work that I do. Each of these annual snapshots has armed me with a new perspective for my time ahead and I hope it becomes apparent as we progress with the development of Boerne Today.