Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Networks That Need Nourishing

May 15, 1995

"Hello," said the little prince. "I'm from asteroid B-618. Where am I?"

"You are in the middle of farmland in North America on the planet earth," answered the amazed and incredulous woman. "Who are you?"

"I am a little prince. Where are the people? I love people!" exclaimed the little prince.

"There are people all around you. You just can't see them," answered the still dazed woman.

"That is quite mysterious. What do you mean?" replied the little prince.

"It's easy. We network. That's how we surround ourselves with people. If you learn the secret of networking you are never alone. We make connections with others. We do this by reading books and newspapers, making phone calls, sending letters, electronic mail and fax messages, attending conventions and talking to people face to face. We used to think our planet was big but we have learned it is small because of our networks."

The little prince answered with a melancholy tone. "I am lonely for a voice from my asteroid," as he remembered a special flower he left there.

"That is one reason we network," explained the woman. "When we are lonely or have a problem, we can visit with just the right person."

"Is networking like friendship?" asked the little prince.

"You could say that, but it is so much more. Networking is the key to many doors. I can get a world class education right here in my own home. Not just with books - I can put myself in the company of some of the best and brightest people in the world who know something about what I want to learn. They are generally pleased to have someone take an interest in them and their ideas.

"In our own neighborhood there are wise and understanding people who will share their wisdom if I ask them the right questions. We can all learn from each other."

The woman continued, "Let me make you a present of another secret. The more you learn from other areas of knowledge, the better you understand your own. New and creative ideas come when we see our problems in a completely new way."

The little prince wondered out loud, "Is that what networking is for - learning?"

"No, not exactly," the woman answered patiently. "We also use networking for getting things done. When a lot of us want the same thing, we get together and cooperate. We promote our interests, educate our critics, influence legislation, develop new markets, make business deals and combine our resources. With many people working together, we can change things so that each of us has an easier path to success. United we stand, divided we fall."

"United we stand, divided we fall," repeated the little prince, sure that he had discovered another secret. "This is a very nice world indeed."

"Unfortunately," replied the woman, "It is not easy. Some people don't know how to network. They loaf and let others do their work for them. And then there are the other special interests."

"Special interests?" asked the little prince.

"Yes. Others who don't agree with us get together and try to get things to go their way. Somehow it all works out. I'm not sure how," said the woman with a hint of resignation in her voice. "Little prince, is any of this helpful to you?"

"Well, sort of. I live in a small place far from companions. I am so lonely. I think I should learn how to network. What do I do to network?" queried the little prince.

"First of all, a person has to be very curious about life and other people. Judging by all your questions, I don't think you have a problem with that. It helps not to be timid. To network, you have to be friendly and feel good about yourself. That way you can approach strangers and share your thoughts and questions with them.

"Notice I said 'share.'" She went on, "To network, you have to give back just as much as you take. If you do all the getting and none of the giving, you won't be a part of another person's network. Be of value to people in your network and they will be willing to share things with you."

"Is there anything else?" wondered the little prince.

"Stay in touch. Networks need nourishing just as much as a flower needs watering," added the woman.

"Networks need nourishing just as much as a flower . . . " The little prince's voice trailed off as he remembered the little flower he left on asteroid B-618. "I have to go. I have to get back to take care of my flower," the little prince said with much urgency.

"Before you go, little prince, could we agree to stay in touch. I can teach more things about our planet and maybe you wouldn't be so lonely. Remember some of the things we've talked . . . "

The little prince interrupted, "I know. Networks need nourishing as much as a flower need watering."