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The Importance of Community

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

Human beings have always functioned as a collective. Homo Sapiens had to work as a herd to survive and it allowed our species to continue to thrive and progress. Even Neanderthals had organized systems to hunt and carry their meal back to the rest of their kin. Currently there are voices raising concern around modern man's moves towards more isolation. The abundance of technology, the decline of extended families, waning mental health, and social values that have shifted away from social involvement.

If community is key to our survival, what happens when it falls apart? How are we going to survive when we regress in our ability to form social groups and contribute to them in a meaningful manner? The pandemic was a reminder of how important relationships and connection are to our human spirit.

There's a big concern around climate change, but when this big climate-driven apocalypse happens, just as it is portrayed in sci-fi and zombie movies, the greatest fear isn't the loss of resources and the barren landscape. The greatest fear in these fictional tales are other people. The "others". Is there truth to it? Are we willing to be more destructive when we do not feel like we are a part of the group? It's easy to imagine the lengths one would go to protect one of our own, at the expense of someone else. What happens when we consider a larger community as our own?

I do think we have lost connection to the human collective, to feel purpose behind supporting a community bigger than ourselves. I recall a time when I visited a school and walked past a professionally dressed woman at the entrance who was having a conversation with another adult. I smiled, expecting to quickly say hello and introduce myself. She glanced at me, but continued with her conversation. I shrugged my shoulders and figured she was too busy for formal greetings and continued into the main office to meet the person expecting my visit. We exchanged pleasantries. But as I maneuvered around the school, I thought it was odd that no one greeted me, being that I was an unfamiliar face on campus. It was most evident when I struggled to open doors with people in my vicinity, pushing a cart with boxes of books that I could barely peek over, and they gave the same response as the woman at the entrance. A quick glance and then carried on with their day. It left me a bit shocked that there was no natural instinct to help another person.

But there is hope. There was a child who still had their communal instincts intact. He saw my struggle and held the door open for me on my way out. My heart burst with joy and appreciation. As I drove away, I wondered about the impact of school culture on these little humans. Schooling is one of the more dominant experiences children have of community, especially for those whose home lives are fractured. That experience fueled the fire within me to repair a sense of community wherever I could.

Just as John Donne's famous poem relays, "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." As a society, although our instinct is to survive, successful survival means caring for our collective community. If every man was an island, there is no room for hope, because it is the community that provides, lifts, and supports when you run out of resources, have lost perspective, or feeling just plain tired. Hope is the idea that something or someone will step in when you no longer can. Hope is impossible if you feel completely alone. How can you survive when you are unable to care for yourself and feeling hopeless?

That's when a community steps in. My work as a teacher, a consultant, a librarian, and as a coach, was impossible without creating a connection. My first course of action was always to build a bond, a microcosm of a community so that there is mutual understanding, trust, and support. The belief that there is someone to rely on is monumental to success and mental health. Support springs us forward. Support in different forms holds up your foundation, whether it be friendships, family, neighbors, colleagues, romantic partners, spiritual groups, or community organizations.

Who is a part of your community? What are you doing in your life to build community? Is your community in need of repair? These are important questions to reflect on, not just today, but to continually reassess internally and as a society. I do hope Oaks and Sails can be a place where people can connect, reflect, and support one another. Truly build a community that helps each other thrive.

If you know someone who needs a hand, step in and reach out. Sometimes that's all it takes to make an impact, not just for that person but for the entire human collective. And if you still aren't convinced, just watch a zombie movie and notice how many times a helping hand saves the day.

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