The Basics

Submitted by Rachel Elizabeth on October 25, 2012 - 2:40pm
Reflections on a Community Conversation in Kitchener

On a busy mid-day of a working week, it was tricky to find a few people who might want to enter into a conversation about community. What better place to look for willing people than downstairs, below our office space, at the Queen St.Commons? (if you are from the K/W area you've likely been or at least heard of the Commons Cafe, run by the Working Center. If you've not heard of it- you need to! Check it out: http://www.theworkingcentre.org/queen-street-commons-caf%C3%A9/170)

Down we went to the cafe and sure enough, I found two of my good friends I had met at Ray of Hope when volunteering- Heidi and John. They were glad to join us for a conversation on community. As we sat sipping our tea/smoothies, our conversation became guided by two key questions:

1. How do you define community?

2. Name an experience of community you have had in your own life

Before the first question had finished to be posed- Heidi was eagerly answering it. Community could be defined as "being together, connectedness, all in one accord," she answered. "Since I don't have any close family here, community is my family," said John. As our conversations continued, we agreed that community is inevitable; we are all surrounded by community either physically, emotionally, spiritually or in other ways. We all live in proximity to others- even if one lives in a rural community, they are still a part of a town/village and share in somesort of collective identity. Though community is a reality for everyone, we can choose our level of engagement. We can intentionally seek others out, or passively exist in the midst of community.

Next, we began to tackle the second question- an experience of community. Heidi expressed feeling the strongest senses of connection and community when with those who are "differently-abled," as she would put it. John likewise felt connected with those with special needs. He attends a group on Monday evenings where many special needs persons gather to play board games. He shared that he has yet to beat one of the attendees at chess! John also included a time when his African neighbours invited him to a cultural gathering at their friends' home. He loved being exposed to a new form of community and felt very included. We also discussed experiences living in university residences where community happened in really raw ways: doors were left open, people took interest in the lives of others, and conversation happened in meaningful ways. I shared about my experience traveling to Louisianna on a service trip in my first year of university. We helped with MDS (Mennonite Disaster Service) who were constructing homes that had been destroyed due to Hurricane Katrina. This was a week of concentrated community: we lived together, served together, we were vulnerable together, we cried together, and we laughed together (to the point of tears!).

Sometimes we make community dialogues big and complex. And sometimes they need to be. However, sometimes bringing it back to the basics- to one word answers that are the first things that pop into our minds- is so refreshing! This conversation was just as sweet as the carrot cake we nibbled on.