Bob, a member of my staff at, recently shared a heartwarming story on our community. It involved his son, Nathan, whose bicycle had been stolen – taken right off of their front porch.

The theft was reported to the local police in Owasso, Oklahoma. The next week, several police officers showed up at his house with a gift: a new bike (and a lock for it). For Nathan, a special needs teenager, the bicycle represents freedom and his means of transportation to work. The police department used money set aside in a Cops for Kids fund to purchase the gift.

The local news covered it. Watch the clip below, including an emotional Bob.

It’s a great story, right? Hard to find anything bad here, right?


In his post on our community, Bob mentioned that right after it happened, a neighbor came over. “You’ve opened a can of worms,” the neighbor said. “Do you think that your son is the only one who’s ever had a bike stolen? Selfish!”

But Bob, nor his son, asked for the police to do this. And he didn’t call the news station. He just reported a bicycle as stolen and the police department took it upon themselves to help this kid. And then the local news saw a feel good story and reported it.

The neighbor has a point, albeit a cynical one. It’s a point that community managers face. It can be extrapolated to mean this: you can’t help everyone, so you should help no one.

A Game of Numbers

There are so many kids that have a bicycle stolen, that no police department should never buy a bike for one, unless they want to buy a bike for all of the kids. So many bikes are stolen from kids that the local news should never do a story on one, unless they are prepared to cover every last one.

What an unfortunate way to think.

Don’t Fall for It

I would urge you not to paralyze yourself with this type of thinking. It’s easy to do it because you can rationalize it. “I don’t want someone to be offended if I don’t mention them when I highlight other members, so I better not mention any individual members.”

When you reach milestones, when you achieve something, as a community, thank individuals. Name people. Don’t just express appreciation vaguely, as in “thank you to everyone who has contributed.” Sometimes – more often than not – it’s best to name individual people, even when you know you won’t name everyone who might deserve it. People love to see their names and it means so much more to be mentioned specifically.

Similarly, never lose sight of the fact that in a sea of criticism, on your worst day, with an inbox full of angry complaints, you can still make the day of one member by helping or praising them.