Read Paul Born's latest book:
Read Paul Born's latest book:
Reflection from a discussion with Derek Alton
What does community mean to me? For me community is about respect. This means showing your neighbour, co-worker or fellow citizen the same consideration that you would want them to show you.
I think it also means being aware of the other person. You don’t necessarily need to know them deeply, but to be able to notice that they exist and to be aware of whether they are in need of any help or assistance. Are they lonely? Do they need a ride to work because their vehicle is being serviced? A great example of this for me was several months ago, when I decided to ride the bus to work instead of using my car for a month or two. Apparently one of my neighbours noticed that my car was always in the driveway and she was worried that I was really sick and staying home for an extended period of time. She was aware of a change in my daily comings and goings. One day I was outside doing some yard work and she came up to me and said she was glad that I was doing ok and that she had been worrying about me. That to me is community. You feel like you matter to others-that you have some human value.
I feel that in today’s society, with all of its technology, people are extremely isolated from each other. They live in a bubble. I notice it the most when I travel. It used to be that you could strike up a conversation with someone on the bus, plane or jet. It might just be small talk but you felt like, even for a short period of time, that you connected with someone. Now when take the train or when I am waiting at an airport, everyone is plugged in to something. It makes me feel really isolated and lonely, it seems as if no one even looks up to see who is sitting beside them, because if they do look up and make eye contact, somehow they’re now committed to saying something to you.
I feel like our world, at least it seems this way in Canada, is wired for families. It seems that is where our community is centered around. Family comes first and single people have a lesser status! So those of us who do not have family, may tend to feel more and more isolated. Even families may not be as community oriented as they used to be. For example, many elderly parents are now being moved into retirement homes. It used to be that elderly parents would move in with their children who would then help take care of them. That is still the way it is in many cultures outside of Canada.
When I moved into my townhouse two years ago, I had the idea of having an open house. That way I could get to know my neighbours and to feel more connected as part of a new community. But like many ideas it never happened. It is interesting too because I know so well that the simple act of getting to know someone can make a real difference in feeling more connected and less isolated. I know this to be true with my tenant as well. I didn’t make an effort to get to know him well in the beginning and as a result, I was very sceptical about his behaviour and though I hate to admit it, a bit quick to judge him. Recently though we have gotten to know each other and it has made a real difference-I trust him more and I can accept him as a person much more readily.
For me personally, I would have to say that the two areas that I would like to build a stronger sense of community in are at work and at my townhouse complex. I am trying to show more respect by being more aware of people’s needs and helping them with small things such as driving a neighbour to work, offering my co-worker assistance in looking for a new career, and anything else that I can do to build that sense of community.