Community in the City

Submitted by 1000 Conversations on June 25, 2013 - 9:54am
A community conversation at Neighbours 2013

At the recent Neighbours gathering that was hosted by Tamarack, there were many conversations about community.  In particular though, a group of us gathered for an intentional conversation on the Tuesday afternoon in Victoria Park.  The following insights are from this conversation.

One of the members of our group, talked about her experience moving from the country to the city.  In the country she had always felt like the odd ball.  Since the small community was so close knit, there was no real place for her to fit in.  Because of this, "community" began to take on a negative connotation for her; it meant judgment or not fitting in.

Later in her life, she escaped to the city.  At first she felt overwhelmed; there were people everywhere.  In her rural background, meeting people was less common so it was normal to stop and talk to most people you saw, or at least make eye contact and nod.  There was always some form of recognition of the other person.  In the city there were way too many people for this to occur.  She was exhausted simply walking down the street from all the social interaction.


With time, though, she began to adjust, she stopped trying to interact with everyone and they started to function more like a stream that flows around you. 


Her home in one of the high rises in downtown Toronto became a sanctuary.  All around her was a buzz of energy and activity, but behind her front door was a quiet tranquility. 


The anonymity she found here in the city was freeing.  No longer did she worry about being judged, she was just another member of the stream.  Because of the enormous diversity of people all in such a small space, she was able to find her niche’s where she fit in, where she felt home.

 She was now able to be part of community on her own terms, to engage with the buzz of activity and with her community of friends where she fit, when she wanted to, and then also to be able to close her door and feel the peace and tranquility of being alone.

 Must we always connect?  Maybe there is value in being alone, it allows you to recharge, balance yourself out, and get a deeper sense of self that helps you stay rooted.


A fine balance...

Thanks for the reflection on this community conversations.

This perspective, of recharging while alone is healthy and important- Nina talks about it in her blog: Do good Neighbours have to be extroverts?

I do, though, think there is a balance. Society does value extroverts- absolutely. So we need to be okay with people needing to be along to rejuvanted- to re-energize, slow-down and feel grounded. That said, we must all continue to challenge ourselves. Though some people may be introverted or need to retreat from others, we all long for human connection- this just looks different for all of us. It can become too easy to stay in, not know our neighbours, etc... which can not only be lonely but have impacts on one's health.

As an extorvert, I likewise, need to find time to be still and quiet to challenge myself and find greater rootedness.