Communities and Community

Submitted by Joe Schaeffer on October 15, 2013 - 4:28pm
A sneak peek from "You've Got to Have a Dream" by Joe Schaeffer

 The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

                                               - Marcel Proust


Most of us think of communities as things made up of people who come together for various reasons—biological and social kinship, for example, the desire to live in a particular location, economic necessity, shared values and beliefs, and so forth. These are the reasons Pooh Bear, Tigger, and their friends live together. And it’s wonderful. But this kind of natural community doesn’t happen very often anymore. We no longer grow up next door to people who remain our neighbors from birth. We no longer marry our high school sweethearts. We move from place to place and change employment several times during our lives. And more often than not, we don’t have time to build a community with others. 

 So let me suggest another kind of community that can happen anywhere, anytime, with anyone. Let’s call it “living community.”* Living community is not tied to place, time, or circumstance. It does not depend on definitions of categories like gender, age, ethnicity, or culture. When people live community they are responsible as individuals and respectful of others as a matter of course. They carry community within them wherever they go. When they meet others who do the same they feel community instantly.

 What are the values these people celebrate? How do they wish to live together? At the beginning of my explore of community and communication I ask a simple question:

 What would people be like within and with each other if they “lived community” this way—in families, schools, places of work, neighborhoods, gatherings of any kind?

 I’ve asked this question of more than fifteen thousand people over the past twenty years or so, women and men of all ages from many parts of the world, people with dark and light skin, wealthy entrepreneurs and unemployed people living in the streets, aboriginal people and recent settlers in new lands, police officers and convicted felons, single parents and couples in their seventies with, in one case, fifty-four grandchildren. Most people give the same answers. “I would like people to be interesting and clear. I want them to be good listeners and accepting of differences. They should be open, honest, empathetic, and compassionate. They must be kind and loving, trusting and worthy of trust. They should be serious about life, but, at the same time, able to have fun.” Most of us would rather not live with people who are controlling, judgmental, prejudiced, and vengeful. We have to sometimes, but we would rather not.

How can we be the way we want to be?

 *Thanks to my friend Paul Born for this expression.



I have fond memories of coming to Community Living St. Mary's. Thanks so much for your comment on the blog. I hope you enjoy the book when it comes out.

Looking Forward,


Hi Joe!  I'm not sure if you

Hi Joe!  I'm not sure if you remember coming to St. Marys for a week around 12 years ago but your workshop on communication had a big impact on how Community Living St. Marys moved ahead with our community development work.  So glad to hear that you are working on a new project and I'll look forward to reading your book!

Neat connection!

What a small world- so neat that you can connect in this online community!

I, like Jen, am also really looking forward to this book coming out, Joe!