Read Paul Born's latest book:
Read Paul Born's latest book:
Though often times when we talk about community we focus on formal organizations and institutions, like neighbourhood associations, faith communities or YMCAs, some of the richest conversations have come from very organic communities. A case in point was the conversation held by a group of young adults this past Sunday.
This is a group of people who started coming together through an assortment of connections through camp, school and church. They now meet every Sunday evening and have formed deep bonds with each other. I must admit that this is definitely one of the corkiest groups I have met, and also one of the most fun. The conversation took many interesting turns, sometimes jumping completely to a different topic only to jump back again a few minutes later. What follows are some highlights from what was a very rich dialogue.
Community is a necessity:
We all have needs and some of them can only be fulfilled through being part of a community. If we are isolated from community we suffer, physically, psychologically and emotionally.
Vulnerability is important but you need trust first and that takes time:
We have a desire to be vulnerable, to not feel like we need to always wear a mask, to have people see us for who we truly are. This can be messy. As humans, we are far from perfect. We have blemishes and defects that are not always nice to see and we know this. Therefore, to be truly vulnerable with people we must develop trust. This does not just happen, it takes time for us to open up and let our true colours show. (at this point the group broke out into song, singing “true colours” by Cyndi Lauper).
Formal situations can help build trust:
For some people it can be difficult or awkward to open up to others. A formal structure helps serve as a common base to build trust. With time as the bonds are built, this formality can be replace by more informal situations.
Too much structure can be stifling:
Too much structure can lead to a lack of flexibility and make it difficult to show your individuality. This means even the littlest thing can make the community fall out of rhythm. It is important for there to be flexibility within a community for it to grow and thrive
Building community means taking risks:
To build community, you need to be vulnerable, you need to trust and allow your blemishes show. You need to put yourself out there for others to see. It means opening your home to others and letting them in. It also means letting yourself care for others.
Community is not all sunshine and rainbows:
When you decide to open yourself up to caring about others it can be a very positive experience, at the same time though you also see their faults. You learn things that you might not have wanted to know about them. This can lead to awkward moments and great discomfort. It also means that their bad times are your bad times too.
No one community can be for everyone:
Groups often strive to be a safe place for the people who are a part of them. Ultimately, though, it is impossible to create a safe space for everyone. What is a safe space for one person can be an unsafe space for someone else. People also have different interests and ideas. Therefore it is impossible to create a community that fits with everyone. As a group is formed, people will naturally self select, some will find that the group does not fit and they will leave, while others find it does fit and they stay.
It is good to have a couple communities:
As individual people who have a lot of depth and breadth of interests and passions. There is no one community that can fit all those interests and passions in. Therefore it is valuable to be connected to a diverse group of communities that each speaks to different aspects of us. This also leads us to being more balanced and also means that no one community is expected to fulfill all of our needs. One must be cautious not to spread themselves to thin, and therefore not fully engage with any of the communities.