Coffee shops can provide an instant community and a much-needed time out from our day-to-day.

Last Friday, my friend Miriam retired from public service. Ever since, it’s been go, go, go for her, with farewell events, lunches and get togethers with family and friends, an afternoon tea, and an upcoming trip to Toronto, not to mention the choir she is joining, the art class she is taking, and the freedom she now has to do what she wants when she wants. Exciting times ahead, indeed.

Miriam invited me to attend a dinner with her colleagues, none of whom I knew but all of whom I knew about. Her colleagues often featured in stories from her work, and now having met them, I understand why they were such an important part of her day-to-day – friendship, support, understanding, encouragement and humour, all of which adds up to community.

It reminded me of my own public service community from 13 years at the Australian Museum in Sydney. That led to lifelong friends now scattered here and there, some of whom have even visited me in Winnipeg.

Some freelancers spend a lot of time on their own.

Currently, in my freelance work as an editor and writer, it isn’t always easy to be part of a community, given the amount of time I spend on my own in my office. And even though I love my work, enjoy my own company, and am more than happy to carry on a conversation with myself, the lack of community can sometimes make me feel cut off from the world.

Sure, there are a variety of events and opportunities out there, as well as interesting and like-minded groups ready, willing and able to offer a distraction or much-needed time out from the office when I get overwhelmed by workload, deadlines and doubt. But that isn’t always what I’m looking for or what I need.

Fortunately, communities come in all shapes and sizes, and can even happen when you leave your office to go to a coffee shop, library, park, or a walk around the block.

And communities are all about quality, not quantity. I know this because for the past eight years, my friend Shelagh and I met every two weeks or so to work on projects, discuss ideas, and catch up on each other’s lives. We called the events CCCs – collaboration, camaraderie and coffee – and they were the perfect antidote to too much solitude and too little face-to-face conversation with other human beings.

As freelancers, communities can sustain and inspire us – and sometimes provide fodder for blogs, stories, plays and speeches. And whether it’s a community of 2 or 200, it all adds up to a very important part of our day-to-day.