We all need a community to feel a part of. Being connected to other people is important to us as humans. we live in a highly technological complex age, where community and what it means for us is continuously changing.
When I remember back to my childhood I knew everybody who lived in my street and halfway up the next street. They were all a part of my life. When we went away fishing during the holidays we would come back and everyone in the street would recieve their fish for a meal. Now I know my immediate neighbours to the left and say hello to the neighbours on my right when I see them every couple of months.
I read a book called, Bowling Alone, which talked about how there has been a shift over the last thirty years or so, from community activities to individual activities and that people are spending their time in more isolating ways. the example they cited was the shift in bowling alleys from team competitions and the social interactions, to people going bowling by themselves, just trying to better last weeks’ score.
What has become increasingly important as my immediate physical neighbours have become less important is building a community of interest. that is, I am associating with people who have similar interests, goals and ideals. Some of my community live far away and we keep contact by email and Skype. We often try to find our sense of community within a working environment; with people we spend many hours together through the week.
There is of course an enormous amount of community activity happening in towns and cities all around the world. People play sports, learn skills, join clubs, go to churches, invite friends around for barbeques and so much more, but it is good to think about how we can work together to create even more connected vibrant communities.
Some of you will have known Ted Sommerville, who died in January of this year. he was great at just quietly linking people together with a wonderful gentle presence. Many people came together united in their grief, and in the remembrance of a great person. What I noticed was a community of people coming together who all knew each other, but did not necessarily interact as a community. Of course, as with all communties it also brought our differences and arguments, but then even that is community. That community existed for a short while, and then drifted back into the shadows.
For me, my personal spiritual perspective on life is extremely important, so my communities of interest are generally tied to some type of spiritual idelals. Over the years I have tried many different possible paths and find myself now drawn to alternative spiritual and healing paths and in particular to organisations that encourage people to explore the wide range of possible pathways, so they can find their own, rather than having one presented as the right way.
I have become involved in the Evolve Holistic Development Trust here in Dunedin and have find myself in a wonderfully vibrant community of people, who have similiar values and interests as me. We have many social and learning events that I enjoy being a part of. I am also aware that this fledgling community can grow and develop in so many interesting ways.
A community can only exist through the connections and actions of the members within the community and so it will only grow and develop as it could, with the support of the people within the community. As with every community organisation I know, there is a relatively small core of people more heavily involved in running the group. I heard the other day, that the Trust has over seven hundred people on its mailoutlist and the list keeps growing.
That represents a huge opportunity for community building. Within those seven hundred people must be an enormous range of skills, abilities and talents. Each person has so much to offer and so much to gain by being actively involved. We all have other commitments and priorities and our time is precious, but we also have a wonderful opportunity to, share our talents, conect with each other and enrich our lives.
E.F. Schumaker talked of thinking globally but acting locally. Wheh we look at the problems of our world today, it is easy to get overwhelmed by what is happening around us. Schumaker’s message points us in the direction of the solution; to be active in our own community, while being aware of the big picture.