Thoughts on value of communities after childhood

Submitted by Derek Alton on November 20, 2011 - 10:33pm
How communities shape us after we are no longer children

I am slowly coming to realize the value that the communities have in shaping who you are.  I have been aware of the value communities have played in shaping me through my childhood and adolescence.  For some reason though I really didn't think to much about how the communities I am apart of are shaping me now.  I think sometimes I forget that I am still learning and growing, often times through experiences and people outside of myself and outside of my control.  So I have decided to be more intentional in the communities I take part in.  The key here is communities.  In today’s world, rarely are we apart of just one community anymore.  Personally i think this is a good, thing.  It opens our eyes up to different views and perspectives, and helps us gather a bigger and deeper understanding of the world we are part of.

The challenge then is what type of communities to be part of.  I want to be part of communities that push me to be better; that resonate and reaffirm my values; that provide that stability and support during tough times.  These are also the people who foster and support my big dreams and ideas (because I am an ideas person).  They are the people I feel most comfortable and at home with.

In todays world it is becoming easier and easier to find people who think the same as us, with the internet these groups are now global, bringing people with similar minds together from all over the world (this online community is a great example).  The danger however, is when this becomes the only community we associate with.  Before online communities became commonplace, we were forced to have some differences within our community purely due to the diversity that naturally exists around us.  Now this is no longer the case as our communities move online.  And after all it makes sense that we are gravitated to people who are like us, we feel most comfortable around these people.  The danger is when this comes at the cost of diversity.  When we only experience one perspective we lose sight of the others.  This narrow view leads to extremism.

This is why I feel it is important to also have communities that challenge us.  People that we have some things in common (ex. sports) but also have differences.  For me this is a group of friends who are interested in hockey, like me, but whose background is in business.  We push each other.  I challenge them on the capitalist assumption of infinite growth and they challenge me to view corporations in a new light.  We are uncomfortable being challenged but it forces us to grow and learn.  If you can find people who challenge you push your assumption but who also at the end of the day you can go have a beer (or in my case root beer) and laugh with while watch the game, then that’s pure golden.

So moving forward I am going to be more intentional both in surrounding myself with people who like me want to change the world, but also to find those people who question my views on how the world should change and even more importantly challenge me on why the world should change in the first place.


What is my hockey?

Hi Derek,

I'm thankful for your concrete challenge of connecting with folks who have different world view than I do. Your hockey example is great. I'm trying to figure out what my hockey is. I'm often in a bubble of like-minded people. I guess my sisters and their husbands could be "my hockey". We are very different and yet we find ways to connect over our love of our parents, our kids, soft pretzels and icecream.

Being part of our newly formed neighbourhood association may be my hockey too. We are a pretty diverse lot. Hey, my church community is my hockey too! Now I'm seeing it. The trick is to stay open to the folks at church who I disagree with on almost everything and finding something we have in common - like a love of potlucks and advent hymns.


many communities


I really like your blog and the many ideas that you want to be more intential about the communites you bleong to or create. I resonate with this and with your thinking - i have thoght simliar thoughts and came up with this.

First there are lots of places I go and feel connection - just simple connection like when i am with like minded people at a conference or doing yoga.

Second there are places where I get involved - and so my connection deepens - i start to volunteer or show up regualrly.

Third i get committed - my passion is sparked and my interest deepens and i start to join in, give of myself and my leadership to an idea and a people.

This can sometimes lead to the fourth level and that is belonging. I used to think it is only where i feel deep belonging is where i can find community. I define belonging as places where mutual acts of caring happen often and where my identity starts to align with those around me. Anyway - will write more aobut this later - much joy to you and thanks again for blogging!

Hi Paul, I really like how

Hi Paul, I really like how you have split it down to four levels of connection.  My question for you is how many communities is it possible to be connected at the level of feeling belonging all at one time?

I feel like in todays world we are connected to more communities than ever before but our connections are more shallow.  i think a lot of this has to do with the fact that it is impossible to have that deep connection with many people. 

Which is better?  Or do we need a mix of all of them?  If so what is this balance look like?  How will we know when we are there?

great questions you inspired

great questions

you inspired me to release some of my writing. I created  five part series called many communities. it goes into much more detail. Would love your feedback.


A question for a question!

These are all fabulous questions and in turn I have some more questions to percolate thinking! 

Why do we ever need to be there?  Where ever or what ever there is?  I kind of feel like it would be a sad loss if we ever truly arrived.  If we are never grappling with questions, or seeking answers (or community) our connections might always be shallow but everyone is seeking something I think so we can't be that shallow all the time...maybe we just haven't stepped into the deep pool yet. 

Most of life is about the balance and I think the older we get the deeper and more connected we become....what do you think the role of age is in community connection?

not an answer for a question

Hi Donna, thank you for your question.  I don't really have any good answers.  I agree, I don't think we ever arrive, and as soon as we feel we have, we stop growing.  As fo age leading to greater connections.  I am not sure, I think it depends.  Some people will move to a completely new location later on in life losing many of their old connections.  I think though with age many learn to appreciate community and connection.  Just some thoughts