Community Building

July 24, 2011

In this new world of electronic social networking, I believe we are hungry for face-to-face community, with its promise and paradox. (See more on that tension in this earlier post).

I am co-teaching a class for library school students developed by Kathleen de la Peña McCook on community building. Students are required to visit a library board meeting as well as meetings or programs of community organizations (cultural, civic, social services). I believe librarians from the public library (one of the few truly neutral spaces in a community) can play an important role in building community.

This morning, I am facing another day of grading papers, and thinking that grading is the worst part of teaching. I wish there were time to hand back an assignment for corrections, to coach, to help a student better understand the lesson. Still, I think these students are really getting it, so I’m glad to be part of this effort.

Over the years I’ve found community in a number of places–at work, in professional associations, Unitarian Universalist congregations, groups of friends, writing groups and yoga classes. I now (sporadically) participate in a Facebook community, which I find to be helpful for shallow connections. I am hoping that using my new space on the downtown square will result in some personal community-building.

Who and where are your communities? How do we stay connected in meaningful ways that call forth our best selves, that challenge us to deepen our lives, better understand one another, and grow together?


June 10, 2010

Living in a vacuum sucks. ~Adrienne E. Gusoff

Today this quote on my Google home page made me laugh. But it also made me think about the seduction of withdrawal. It is a great luxury this month to have no particular place I have to go, no particular people I have to see, and no particular work I have to do. I can wander around the yard, take time to sit in the sun and pet the cat, read novels, take naps, write, draw, and generally do what I please. Dangerous stuff for an introvert who lives in the country!

So I want to fully enjoy this retreat from society, but also plan for my reentry, because I believe that engagement is a responsibility we have to the world. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us about the interdependence of all things, which he calls interbeing. “I am, therefore you are. You are, therefore I am,” he says.

So during this time of rest and reflection, I will consider how to best be of use. What is it that I have to offer the world? And where and how can it be shared wholeheartedly?

Aging and Community

May 23, 2010

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. ~George Washington Carver

Today, my mother-in-law Edna is in the hospital having tests to confirm a suspected stroke. End-of-life issues are so difficult. How do we determine when to intervene medically and when to let the aged die peacefully? Just because we can prolong life, should we always, despite the suffering it may bring?

What about more community-oriented solutions? As do so many in her generation, Edna tried to stay in her own home and had to move to an institution when she could no longer do so. Moran and Rollins predict that the baby boomers will “transform traditional models of independent living” in this article. And the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging and Community has this as a philosophy: “The University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community is guided by the belief that it must move beyond the medical model in its approach to aging issues, viewing older adults holistically and acknowledging that they are community assets.” Amen.

The Paradox and Promise of Community

April 11, 2010

There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace—and ultimately, no life—without community. ~M. Scott Peck

Participation in meaningful community is the greatest unacknowledged hunger of our time. ~Family Therapy Networker

We are individual designs in the fabric of life: We have our own integrity, but simultaneously we are part of the fabric, connected to and defined by the whole. Community is the human dimension of that fabric. ~Tom Atlee

The title of this post is the title of the first chapter in The Community of the Future from The Drucker Foundation. In this chapter, Margaret J. Wheatley (one of my favorites!) and Myron Kellner-Rogers explore the difficulties and the benefits of community. They lament that, “Particularly in the West…we move toward isolation in order to defend our individual freedom.” By doing so, we end up lonely and impoverished. They contend that we must live in the paradox of community: the conformity required to live together and the need for our own independence.

The authors describe communities that do not require members to forfeit their freedom. People in groups must know why they are in community, and their conditions of belonging can be kept to the minimum. One junior high school has only three rules: “Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Take care of this place.”

“Our great creativity and diversity, our desire for contribution and relationships, blossom when the heart of the community is clear and beckoning, and when we refrain from cluttering our paths with proscriptions and demands.”

Have you experienced the joy of community in which people know why they’re together, have a “cohering center of shared significance,” yet keep the demands for conformity and sacrifice of one’s individuality as minimal as possible?

For, Not Against

March 12, 2010

Every value we hold dear is an expression of either support or opposition, and it is our perspective that determines whether we are for something or against it…being for something is a vastly more potent means of inspiring change because it carries with it the power of constructive intent. ~from the Daily Om, 3/3/10

As regular readers know, I have some degree of ambivalence toward social activism. (See Riding the Currents.) I believe so many good intentions to make the world a better place go astray and further polarize people. This may be largely because of the negative nature of much activism–protest marches as opposed to nonviolent demonstrations in favor of an ideal.

I want to be for the things I believe in more than I am against the views of others. Constructionist rather than deconstructionist. Here’s my list. Join me! What would your “for” list include?

Peace–in the world, in our communities, in our homes, and in ourselves
Social justice–ensuring all the opportunity for health and happiness
Economic justice–raising all boats through equitable policy and legislation
Intellectual freedom–to read, think, and believe as we wish
Human rights–the Universal Declaration says it best
Tax-supported government services–such as libraries and health care
Community–locally, nationally and globally
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part
Simpler living–right relationship with possessions and the earth’s resources

Kindness Multiplied

January 27, 2010

No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves. ~Amelia Earhart

When my father died in 1967, his company newsletter said that he would be remembered for his kindness and his sense of humor. I would be very proud to be remembered for such important qualities. I love this quote from Amelia Earhart, because it reminds us how interdependent we really are, how a simple kindness reverberates, ripples outward, and often comes back to us.

What was the last kindness you received? Did you pay it forward?

Why and Where is War?

January 19, 2010

Every war is against the world, and every war against the world is lost. ~Alice Walker

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the root of all war is fear. ~Thomas Merton

In a battle, the winners and the losers both lose. ~The Buddha

Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. ~Albert Einstein

There is no way to peace; peace is the way.~A. J. Muste

If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Don’t throw anyone out of your heart. ~Neem Karoli Baba

We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives, that it is inside ourselves. ~Albert Camus

I have ordered a subscription to The Friend, the magazine of the Quakers. I am not a Quaker, but I deeply admire many of their beliefs and practices, not the least of which is their pacifism. I know that human conflict is complex, and that many have fought and even died for good causes. But I also know that it is important to speak out against war, to teach children how to be in community in spite of differences, to raise our voices against militarism. So today I offer the wisdom of those who have spoken much more eloquently than I ever could on this subject. Peace be with you.