Monday, June 18, 2007

Community Building

Where I grew up, everyone knew everyone. It was a stereotypical small town, where you couldn't do much without someone else (usually your mother if it was something bad) finding out. There was plenty of gossip and not much to do with your time. But it was a community. It was a place where you knew your neighbors and could count on at least a few of them to be there for you in a bind.

When I moved to a new area, states away from everyone I knew and loved, I immediately found a makeshift community at the church I attended. I had a group of friends and knew several older couples who supported me and helped me when I was in need. There was always someone to help me move, lend me a few dollars, or have me over for dinner when I was feeling lonely. If I hadn't found that place and those people, I don't know how long I would have lasted here.

Now that I'm no longer attending a church, and most of those close friends have moved away or moved on with their lives, my community has crumbled. And I need it back. I'm lost without a support system. I'm trying to build a city of support again, but it's not easy. It turns out that people aren't always open to friendship or even basic neighborly interaction. The only people I see regularly are my coworkers and My Love. While it's a good start, it's not enough for me.

So I'm making more of an effort to get to know my neighbors. While some of them are less open, I've found a few that have become the beginnings of a tiny community. They've brought me into their fold and I'm gradually expanding my connections to those around me. I'm also making more of an effort to hang out with a few friends who I've never been that close to, but who I enjoy being around. Maybe with more time, we can build deeper relationships. And I'm trying to rekindle a few friendships that have fallen by the wayside, because of life, kids, moves and more. I've decided being "busy" isn't a good excuse for not seeing and talking to the people you care about.

I realize that the way I'm describing my need for a community may sound selfish, but it's not. I don't just want people around me so that they can do things for me when I need it or fill my time when I'm lonely. I want people around me so that I can help them, too. Part of what I desire is to feel like I belong to something, like I can make a contribution in some meaningful way to my little corner of the world. The best way to do that in my mind is to build relationships. Relationships allow us to influence one another. They allow us to teach. They give us the ability to grow together.

Yes, having a community of people that I can trust, that support me and encourage me and smile at me when they see me, is important to me. But I know that if I don't know the people I live near, if I don't have people around me that trust me, too, if I don't support and encourage and help them when I can, I'll wither up and die, like a plant that hasn't been watered. More than a community that gives me, I need to give to a community. I'm lost without one.


Anonymous said...

Have you considered volunteering? I maybe starting a new job soon, where I would be working from home and am trying to think of ways to stay connected with people, because I tend to have hermit-like So volunteering and taking a class would be a starting point to meeting more people.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the same position as you are. I realized how much I missed feeling needed by people and how much I need them. One of my childhood friends will be moving here next week (I'm SO excited). I'm hoping maybe I can start with him and work on meeting new people. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Needing a community isn't selfish at all. All creatures need a community.

Ami said...

Nicole - That's a great idea, and something I've thought about a lot. Time constraints are my only concern.

Anon - Glad to hear you'll have a friend around soon! And it's always easier to meet new people when you're not alone.

Betsy - You're right. It's completely natural to want to be part of a community. Thanks for that reminder!

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