What Is Community Anyway?
I had one of those weekends not too long ago where I just felt lonely. I even had family staying with me, which was wonderful, but it appeared that no matter how hard I tried to snap out of it, I felt off. Here we are in the middle of baseball season with three boys, logging in countless hours at the baseball park, surrounded by spirited, friendly and invested parents.
No shortage of someone to turn to and talk with, and yet I was having a bit of a temper tantrum on the inside. You know how you get an idea in your head about something and then start looking for evidence to prove it out? Well, that’s what I did.
How was it that I could be a part of so many communities (e.g. school friends, International, hometown, volunteer work etc) and yet not feel connected? I bet you can relate.
I will admit my immediate family took the brunt of it, and I did some cleaning up post-tantrum, but it really got me thinking about community. What makes community? What’s the difference between community spread out all over the world or online community vs. the community right here in my hometown? What’s my part in creating community? How do we create the kind of community that naturally prioritizes human connection at the top, leaving us living more fulfilled and simple lives?
We all know a community is one of our basic needs, but what I’ve come to recognize over time is that my definition of community differs from others AND the way in which I lead my life directly impacts my connection to the community. What I’ve also come to accept is that there are communities that serve different purposes, but at the end of the day, the way in which we’re BEING is constant.
My highest vision of community looks like having a tribe of people physically proximate to me that offer mutually beneficial relationships where there is depth, curiosity, truth, fun, and spontaneity. Without one of those qualities in place, I find it very difficult to experience true community. For example, there are lots of communities that have formed on Social Media, but often feel like highlight reels. While there are certainly conversations that offer depth and meaning, it simply isn’t the same as connecting and supporting someone in person. Those communities absolutely serve their purpose, but I’m learning through my own personal needs and from my clients that experiencing physical community is still #1 priority. I’ve put a lot of thought into this and, at the end of the day, here are three tricks I’ve found to create the kind of community I’m hungry for so that I have fewer feelings of loneliness and more feelings of connectedness and support.
- Create space in your day for spontaneity, so that you can connect with people in the moment and have authentic conversations without feeling rushed.
- Check your leadership and up your game around being really curious, caring, and real with people you interact with day to day. When you start to respond with, ‘everything is good’ catch yourself and see if you’d be willing to give a response that creates depth.
- Create an opportunity for people to connect over like-minded interests. My husband does this so well. He takes something he’s interested in like movies and will invite a handful of people he knows who are interested in movies. What I love about this is that he’s not inviting people because they’re all best friends, instead he’s inviting them knowing they all share a common interest and there’s an opportunity for new friendships to form. He goes into it with zero expectations and, yet, over time, I’ve noticed that his inclusive ways have fostered a community of men who have now created their own friendships w/ in the group.
- This one is for my fella Mamas- start saying no to things if it’s getting in the way of you making space for YOU to experience meaningful connections and build communities. I get wanting to help everyone and we know you’re more than capable, but at a certain point it will interfere with your basic need of human connection.
I believe we as humans require community. Particularly the kind of community we can turn to in a moments notice and connect with in a meaningful way in person. While some of us need our alone time more than others, we crave community in a way that supports our ideals and catches us when we’re in our messy state, but also supports us in our day to day living. I’m still figuring out how to create a community in person, so please share your thoughts as I bet there’s something the SG community can learn from you!