“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” John Donne, No Man Is An Island – Meditation XVII
The young woman struggled with the sign that had fallen. She had a broom in one hand and a portion of the sign in the other. She would have to put down the broom to fix the sign, but before she had to decide which item would be dropped a co-worker came to her aid. It was a simple thing, yet how perfect an example of that part of human nature that finds us wanting to pitch in to help where we see someone struggling. That’s what community is all about, isn’t it?
Taking pictures of birds and ball players, I often encounter other photographers whose pictures are better than mine. In fact, I have sought advice from the community of photographers I have found that surrounds me. After taking pictures for so long, I even have people who seek my advice. That is a huge compliment and reminds me that I am part of a community.
Where is your community? Where you live, where you work, where you worship, where you socialize…these are each opportunities for community. Even within this large county, there can be community. I hear it frequently, perhaps even have found myself saying, “This place is getting so big, so many people!” Inasmuch as we can feel lonely in a crowd, we can find community even in a mass of people, we are each a part of the main. Before you pack your bags and move to live on an island, which sounds tempting at times, stop to see how you can take the busy place you live and find your community, your part of the main.
- Where you live. Is there a neighborhood social group? You should see what they offer. Some have supper clubs for adults or play groups for moms/dads with young children.
- Where you shop, in general. Take time to speak to the people in the businesses you frequent. When you develop those relationships, those places become wonderful places to visit instead of dreaded shopping ventures. If you are a business owner, do you cultivate a feeling of community for patrons? There is not much worse when you are shopping or dining than feeling like you are in the way or just another customer–unless it’s one of those days you hope no one speaks, and we all have those.
- Online. Whatever your interests, there are online communities where you can dialogue, learn and share ideas. From healthier eating to spiritual practices, there are places to be a part of a community. Gamers know what I’m talking about. My son became such good friends with a gaming community when he was younger that they all decided to meet in person.
- Coffee Shops. Every coffee shop I’ve ever visited has “regulars,” loyal customers. During the Christmas season, there were stockings hanging for the employees, and the regular customers dropped notes of appreciation in for their favorite baristas. Much like the regulars at the bar on “Cheers,” these customers are looking for a place to call home when they are not at their own home.
- Where you shop, specialty. Look for locally owned businesses who offer the items you need. I love going to the local hardware store. It smells like a hardware store from my childhood for one thing, but it also is a place filled with employees who are usually very knowledgeable when I ask a question. We have locally owned clothing, hardware, and drug stores; independent landscapers, painters, musicians and instructors. There are people who work for chain department stores and restaurants, and they are still a part of our community, paying their bills, living their lives, and sometimes raising families beside us.
- Where you fill your spiritual cup. With so many churches, there is something for everyone who wants to attend a church, and it is up to each congregation to build community within their members. Church isn’t for everyone, though. There are groups that come together for a common purpose, and often these are places where a person’s spirit is cared for, nourished. Even a yoga class, where you quiet your mind and can just be, is an opportunity to build your spirit with like-minded people, a small community of fellow travelers.
- Where you play. There are teams in schools and out of schools for those in the under 25 group, but there are also teams for the rest of us. Softball, basketball, bowling are just a few choices for those wishing to be a part of something without being committed too much. When you are part of team, you approach the sport with a family attitude–a captain is the head, but he or she is no more important in the scheme of things than the individual members of the team.
If life is a journey, it will be more pleasant to travel the road sometimes with others. Whether you are a loner or not, you will have opportunities when you need people. We need both large business and small business. We need believers and non-believers. We need scientists and mechanics. We need English teachers and basketball coaches. We need conservatives and liberals. We need balance. We need time alone, and we need each other.
In a city, a county, a state, a country, and even a family, there are members who support each other, and the head is simply a guide or an anchor. Your “community” will never be as strong as it could be, as meaningful as it should be, as long-lasting as it would be, unless you decide to participate.
“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.”
― Gene Roddenberry