Movement Eight: Community
Life is interdependent, with complex webs of relationships between different organisms creating the ecosystems we all depend on. Humans are no different … we also form complex webs of relationships that we depend on for our lives. Most of us are part of many communities: our geographical community, an identity-based community, a school community, an interest-based community, and more. And all of those community bonds and connections, the quality of our networks, have huge impacts on our resilience. When you help to make your community stronger, you are helping yourself as well as everyone else in that community.
“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” – Margaret J. Wheatley
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.” – Herman Melville
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” – Coretta Scott King
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb
“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community … Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” – Cesar Chavez
Exercise One: List Your Spiritual Assets
We all bring qualities of our spirit into our interactions and our work in the world. For instance, some have a deep compassion, or an ability to forgive, a great sense of humor, or a commitment to justice. These can be thought of as your spiritual assets, the gifts you bring to community. Take some time to reflect on your own particular spiritual assets. Not necessarily skills or interests, but the deep qualities of being that come from your particular spirit or your particular connection with the sacred/divine (however you understand that). List your assets. Are there some assets that you’d like to further develop? Are there ways to bring your assets to the community? And, most importantly, take a moment to appreciate the unique gift that you are! Your community needs you, just the way you are.
Exercise Two: Experience Spiritual Community
While it’s totally possible to have a rich and rewarding spiritual life that is comprised of solo practices, there is also a huge benefit to finding a spiritual community that can give you support and challenge for deepening in your spirit. In Buddhism, there are three refuges: The Buddha (the model), the Dharma (the teachings), and the sangha (the community of believers/learners/practitioners). Having a sangha, or a community, will help you follow the teachings and the models. What kind of community should you seek? That is totally up to you! For some, a yoga or meditation class will fit the bill. For others, singing in a church choir. There are many possibilities. It may take a while for you to find the right fit, so just commit to trying some experiences and see where they lead.
Exercise Three: Map Your Network
This exercise can be helpful just to raise your awareness of what communities and networks you are a part of. These are connections that can support you, and also influence points for you to impact others (and, eventually, the world). On a large piece of paper, place yourself in the center. Then draw or write each of your communities around yourself. Perhaps “old school friends” is one, or “other parents at school”, or “dance studio people”. These connections don’t have to your best friends … these are any communities or networks that you are a part of. When you are done, what do you notice? Are you more connected than you realized? Less? Are there communities you’d like to reconnect with? Become more active in? Or are there communities that don’t feel healthy and you need more space from? If you like, journal about your noticings.
Exercise Four: Learn About Your Community
How much do you know about the place you live? Its history, ecosystems, local government, traditions, and local issues? With the decline in local newspapers, many of us are more aware of national or global issues than we are of what is happening in our own communities. How can you learn more? If you still have a local paper, consider subscribing. There may also be websites, blogs, or social media accounts that follow local news or events. Look up your local government and chamber of commerce websites and explore them a bit. Find out if you have a local historical society of any kind. Invest some of your time in knowing your local community.
Exercise Five: Show Up to Support Community
There are many opportunities to just show up and support a vital community. Local festivals, free concerts in the park, parades, tree lightings … many events are free and open to everyone to just show up. Then there are fundraisers for local organizations, ranging from the Lions Club Pancake Breakfast to fancy galas where you get dressed up. Or attend the local high school or community theater play, or go to the contra dance at the grange. Every community will be different, so it will take some paying attention. But there’s nothing worse than throwing a party and not having anyone show up, so be one of the folks who shows up and enjoys what your community has to offer.
Exercise Six: Be a “Joiner”
In his 1995 essay “Bowling Alone”, Robert Putnam traced the decline in American social engagement, and other demographic studies have indicated a decline in “joining” behavior. You might notice this in your own life and networks, that people are reluctant to commit, RSVP, or join a club or group. Unfortunately, this trend contributes to the weakening of our community networks. If you would like to counter this trend even a little bit, consider joining something. If you don’t have much time to give, it can be something small and simple – even just your local NextDoor network or an online Buy Nothing or Mutual Aid Collective group. If you have more time to give, consider joining a civic organization like the Rotary Club or the Friends of the Library. Look around, I’m sure you’ll find a place that could use your engagement!
Website: Charter for Compassion: Community
Emergent Strategy by adrienne marie brown
Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
- When have you most truly felt like you belonged? What were the qualities of that community and that time in your life?
- How strong is your network now? Are you placing enough importance (time, energy, etc) in community building? What kind of community would you like to have?
- What gifts and assets do you bring to your communities? How do you positively effect others in your network? What gifts do your communities give to you? What benefits do you receive from community?
- What are some challenges that your communities are facing? Is there anything you can do to help your communities with those challenges?
- What do you think is the key to building strong community? How could we have stronger communities in this world?
Next: The Branches