In the spirit of the New Year, many people choose a word to focus on, that describes an aspirational quality they are seeking to develop. In the spirit of Creativity is Everything™, I decided to choose a word for something I already had in my life that I was grateful for: community. As social activist and former journalist, Dorothy Day once said, “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love, and that love comes with community.”
What is Community?
When I talk about the importance of community, I’m not referring to a physical place. Sure, urban planners have made some great choices in how residential and commercial spaces are intertwined within a certain radius, or how much green space is available for parks and playgrounds. Instead, community is a state of mind. David Spangler, a spiritual philosopher, described true community as one that, “requires commitment and openness. It is a willingness to extend yourself to encounter and know the other.”
I never would have imagined the community I lived in would be so important. That is, until COVID hit. Suddenly, my neighborhood got a whole lot smaller as I spent my time inside an apartment in a new neighborhood where I knew no one. The first months of the pandemic may have been socially isolating but they were also socially unifying. At 7 pm, everyone knew the drill – Open your windows and bang on a pot to cheer on the essential medical workers. Then more subtle things started happening. First, it started with a smile as I passed certain neighbors on the stairwell. Then, smiles evolved to a first name. Now, my neighbors and I are exchanging tips and book recommendations.
The other way I’ve been experiencing my community is in tiny everyday moments. The way the pizza delivery worker at my local pizza shop says hello to my daughter every day; the smiles I receive from Keith and Charlie when I visit the post office to pick up my mail; the way my nail technician Jenni and I have come to know each other. Community is a tapestry of interwoven stories, where people share a common respect for each other and support each in ways seen and unseen.
Communities Around and Within
While Rosehill might be a way to describe the neighborhood where I conduct my daily affairs, my community is much bigger than that. I am grateful that my community extends to other areas of my life. This includes my colleagues in the hospitality industry, the parents at my daughter’s school, and the people who I went to school with throughout my life. Communities are often created in planned and unplanned ways.
For me, author and life coach Chris Matakas said it best: “It is in community where we find our very selves.” While there is a lot more for me to discover within myself, there is a lot more to discover about the power of our communities. Nothing brings a community together faster than tragedy. However, we don’t have to wait for tragedy to happen to appreciate what we already have around us. Nor, do we need to wait to do our part to make things better for everyone. We can tap into the wisdom and strength of our communities as long as we have the courage to engage with others.