September, 2018 – Community

September, 2018 – Community

For the past several years, the word ‘community’ has become ketchy – a buzz word.  To me, it has become annoying.  Let me explain.  First of all, I’ll give two dictionary definitions of ‘community’ –

The first one isa group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common;  a group of people living together and practicing common ownership; a particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants;  a body of nations or states unified by common interests;  the people of a district or country considered collectively, especially in the context of social values and responsibilities; society;  denoting a worker or resource designed to serve the people of a particular area.

Second definitionthe condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common; a similarity or identity; joint ownership or liability.

I have lived in both of those definitions.  I grew up in two different communities (a collection of human beings) in a small rural town in Washington County, Maine.  In the first town, we were of one mind in the sense that we were more like a big family.  We shared like-thoughts, values, morals, even our food, tools, lawn mowers, car parts, etc.  Maybe it was because we were such a small community, and many of us related that we were ‘community’.

In the second town, we were not ‘community’ – although if anyone needed help there were plenty of folks to rally around to give assistance.  But like much of the Western world, we pretty much took care of ourselves, looked out for our own needs.  And maybe that was an example of cause-effect – larger town with few relatives.

D.M. Chavis and Lien Lee say in their article, ‘What is Community Anyway?’ – “Members of a community have a sense of trust, belonging, safety, and caring for each other.  They have an individual and collective sense that they can, as part of that community, influence their environment and each other.  The treasured feeling of community comes from shared experiences and a sense of – not necessarily the actual experience of – shared history.  As a result, people know who is and isn’t part of their community”.  So ‘community’ is not a place.  It’s not a town.  It’s a sense of fellowship, of having things, ideas, thoughts, interests in common.  And beyond that, it’s a group of people who have relationships.  Although I have precious friends in my church with shared thoughts and interests, it’s still not ‘community’.  Probably not possible when you only see each other once a week . . .

I think I’ll scream if I hear one more person say in a group, or to a group of people, “We need ‘community’.  Or, let’s be ‘community’.  You are either ‘community, or not!  It is not something that can be fabricated, or initiated, or begun like a club. If you need to say, “We need to be ‘community’, then be assured that you’re not and most likely won’t be.  It takes years of relationships – with many people to get where you want to go.

I watched a young father in Romania go out in the evening with only enough money to buy his family some bread.  When he returned home, his wife told him that folks down the hall way had nothing – absolutely nothing to eat.  Knowing this was all his family would have before going to bed, they didn’t discuss what they should do about the other hungry family – they didn’t even talk it over – the young fellow just broke the loaf of bread in half, passed one-half to his wife, and took the rest to his neighbors.  THAT’s ‘community’!

I know – because I’m not there now.  I have been – just not now.