Are you connected

Have you noticed I haven’t written an actual Valentine’s Day post yet?  I just realized I am one of the very few who hasn’t dedicated an entire post to this holiday.  There is plenty out there on how to decorate for this holiday, what to give as gifts, how to make this day special and on and on.  For me Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love, and love is personal.  It’s not that I hate Valentine’s Day, it’s just that love should be expressed every day.

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Rather than writing a post now on this upcoming day to celebrate love in all its various forms.  I want to talk about something quite different.  If you would rather read something about Valentine’s day, check out what Wholey Jeans has to say today and enter for a chance to win a very unique prize, I’ll understand 🙂

Finding Community

I have a quote from a favorite book entitled Native Wisdom for White Minds by Anne Wilson Schaef:

Community is not something we can ‘make’ happen.  Community emerges as we participate in life with those around us.

Why do I want to talk about community today?  Because community is the extension of our home. It is where we live, work, shop, and play.  To live in an area and yet be separate from all those around you is not engaging with your chosen community.

When you become part of your community you will find those who will cheer you on in your struggles, join you in your celebrations, and give you a sense of belonging that so many only say they want.

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When you are connected to those around you, with your full attention you will find a greater sense of peace and security in your life. You will know you have people you can call on in an emergency and people to share a joke and laugh with. Loneliness will no longer be an issue.

It’s so easy to start, simply smile and say hello to those you see as you go about your day.   I will leave you with a quote from the same book this time from Helena Norberg-Hodge,  writing about the Ladakh:

Each individual is supported by a web of intimate relationships, and no one relationship has to bear too much weight.  In Ladakh, I have never observed anything approaching the needy attachment or the guilt and rejection that is so characteristic of the nuclear family.  All the signs tell us that the nuclear family is not working.

How have you joined your community and found the connections you needed in your life?

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26 comments

  1. I am really, really terrible at interacting with my community. I have three neighbors, two of which I have ever said hello to. I am great at meeting people online (like you, and other bloggers) but something short-circuits in my brain and I am just really bad at in-person stuff. I often feel very lonely and without friends. I do have friends, they are just far away and I don’t see them often.

    Lately I joined a Time Bank, a sort of community-based organization in which we help out members for “time dollars” which we can then spend on other services. Like, I could come fix your sofa, and you could reupholster a chair for me. It’s a time-based currency system. I am really excited about it, and I made myself go to a meeting to start meeting other people. I am working hard at being normal and making friends. I’m sure I’ll blog about it eventually!

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    • Caitlin, I too used to be very shy with people I didn’t know. It came from years of being hurt and wanting to just be left alone so I didn’t have to try and figure out who to trust. I was happy this way until my youngest son reached 9 maybe 10. He told me one day how it bothered him that I was so shy, the complete opposite of him. I simply started by smiling as I passed someone, or mumbled hello. If the other person struck up a conversation I could follow their lead and not have to worry about what to say. Today I am so much better and it feels good.

      I love time banks and wish we had one here. I will look forward to hearing about your experiences with yours.

      As for being normal, please don’t strive for normal, it’s way too limiting. Just be yourself.

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  2. I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. Well, that and other holidays cooked up by the Hallmark corporation. A box of chocolates doth not true love make!

    But I love your question about community. I was just reading a post about the blizzard by a blogger outside of Boston who was amazed that on a day when travel was forbidden and you’d expect people to be holed up in their homes, everybody was outside enjoying the snow, having fun and connecting with each other. The streets were filled with pedestrians and folks on skis & sleds… you know… people actually interacting with each other! It just makes me think that so many of our modern conveniences really only serve the purpose of keeping us separate from each other.

    A few summers ago we had a bizarre incident in my neighborhood. Some guy went crazy and took his truck and just started ramming parked cars. I think he was drunk or something and had a fight with his girlfriend & this was his way of “blowing off steam.” Anyhow, within seconds everybody was outside wondering what the heck was going on! People were talking to each other, everybody sharing what they knew, piecing it together as the whole bizarre thing unfolded. They finally caught the guy when he drove through a fence and smashed into someone’s garage a few blocks down.

    It’s really funny, and kinda sad, but the neighborhood has been much closer since that happened. We still have the language barrier to contend with as the neighborhood is at least 30% Spanish speakers – but people wave to each other now and stop to say hello. And we make a point of checking on some of our elderly neighbors now and then to make sure they’re OK.

    I dunno… maybe it takes something out of the ordinary to coax people out from their hiding places.

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    • Your story of your neighborhood reminded me of 9/11. Even though our town wasn’t in any danger, and being a tiny speck on a map didn’t pose much threat everyone came out and joined together. Someone began making plans should a plane be shot down over our town to protect everyone (our town was along the path the plane took which ended up in PA. The same could be said all over the country. I’m sorry it took such a strange event to get everyone to talk and learn a little something about each other in your neighborhood.

      I have always hated the commercialization of the holidays. I’ve always said I love Christmas but not the gift giving that goes along with it, I would rather give a gift on an ordinary day, just because. I think that’s why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Family, food, and football, the 3 Fs.

      I have interacted more with the people in my town since I gave up my car. There is a whole world outside beyond the windshield just waiting for us.

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  3. I believe community is a major key to sustainable living. No-one can be completely sef sufficient but by joining with others, not only can we swap skills, veggies, honey, eggs etc, we get to have fun along the way. We were never intended to be completely independent which is why people get lonely. Great subject you’ve touched on.

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    • So well put. I was always a loner when I was young always preferring to hide away with a book, but it wasn’t until I chose to rent a place several miles from town and the gas prices jumped so high that I realized I enjoy my solitude but not all the time. It was that experience that led me to getting rid of almost all my things and moving to where I am. I’m no where close to where I would like to be on self-sufficiency, but in some ways I’ve learned I don’t want to be completely self-sufficient. I like having people close by I can ask for help and give help in return.

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    • I totally agree. A few years ago I was really into self-sufficiency. I read lots of John Seymour books and I wanted to have a small holding when I was older. But then when I broadened my sustainability interests, I realized that kind of lifestyle is not what I want at all… And if everyone had it then we would do little more than produce food. Vibrant, bustling communities where people know they’re neighbors and shopkeepers is a beautiful thing. Just as in a ecosystem the more relationships you have the more resilient it is, the same is true for socio-ecosystems. In my university lecture today, a study was mentioned that showed communities react better to natural disasters if they are ‘well-connected to each other socially’.

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      • You amaze me, Tegan! I believe it is true that communities that are already well-connected to each other will weather a disaster better. We used to own a mobile home in a park. Tornadoes were a problem. One night one set down then went right over the roof of our home. We had already left for shelter, but upon arriving home neighbors asked if I wanted them to check the roof for possible damages and told me how close I came to losing my home. It was nice to have their help as my boys were too little to get on the roof and I really didn’t want to try it myself.

        I always thought I wanted a piece of land out in the middle of nowhere. It started when I was young and would camp all summer where I would hear none of the sounds of a city, no cars, no light nothing but nature. I didn’t realize for a very long time that while I wanted to be close to nature, even at the camp I had people around me. I don’t do well being completely cut off.

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        • Oh that’s brilliant! It’s good your neighbors could help.. The community resilience thing does make sense really. The Transition Movement (www.transitionnetwork.org) holds ‘building community links and relationships’ in as high esteem as market gardens and wind turbines. I believe it is every bit important. We are social animals. (:

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  4. The idea of community is very important. I have lived several places and each one had a different sense of community. Some were easier to belong to than others. I grew up in a small town and we had a wonderful sense of community. I think when you don’t have as many choices available, you seek out others more. I also had a good sense of community when I moved into a new housing development. Everyone was new and we all had the same questions and concerns. There was a common bond to rally around. Other communities I have lived in have been closed off. There was one where most people had lived there their whole life, and didn’t want new people disturbing them. In that place it took years, before I finally belonged no matter how hard I tried. Each situation is unique and sometimes it takes something out of the ordinary like EcoCaLlady described to really bring an area together.

    Also, each of us fits in in a different way. Some of us are extroverts and need to seek others out continuously. Others of us are introverts, and are uncomfortable with a lot of with interaction with people. For introverts it’s much easier to form an online community which has a whole other set of advantages and disadvantages. I’ll save that discussion for another time.

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    • I too have lived in all sorts of communities. The worst situation I had was living in an apartment complex in Arizona. No one talked to anyone, the few people who did talk to you were transients who were there for temporary work and moved on. It was pretty lonely.

      I came from a small city, if I remember correctly our city had only about 60,000 people and the entire city was 7 miles from one end to the other east to west. Yet there was so much to do. I’ve talked about it before, but I think the advent of all the technology we take for granted today is what has destroyed that feeling in my hometown. It wasn’t uncommon to have to wait in a street for the children and adults to move out of your way to proceed because a neighborhood pick up game of basketball was going on. Today I don’t think you could find a single one being played at any time.

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  5. I was reading EcoCatLady’s comment and thinking that those out-of-the-ordinary times that have often spurred on community for me, too. I got to know the neighbors in my apartment complex in Connecticut the first winter I lived there because of the snowstorms. After a heavy snow, when the plow came, we’d all trundle out to the parking lot, brush off our cars (or shovel off our cars!), and then do a musical-cars dance so the plow could clean all the spots. We were working and sweating and laughing and marveling at all the snow, and it was oddly really fun. We asked each other how things were going. We learned each others names. Ben often would clear off and shovel a path to the car of an older single woman who lives downstairs from us, and she’d always reciprocate with some delicious home-cooked thing. Sounds like my Connecticut community is under two new feet of snow right now, and I’m thoroughly jealous not to be there for the musical cars 🙂

    I’m also thinking of the way that asking someone for assistance builds community. I often try to think of what I can/should be doing for others, but I’m always touched when a neighbor asks something of me. It shows trust. To be there when a child’s clarinet is dropped off by a friend, to be able to pick someone up from a doctor’s appointment, to water the plants when someone is away. I always feel humbled and grateful to be asked some small, personal thing by a neighbor, and it reminds me that I too need to ask, to lean occasionally, to show the same trust of this community.

    Anyhow, thanks for bringing this up 🙂 And for reminding us that community is this day-to-day way of being around each other, not some abstract thing.

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    • As much as I miss those days of constant neighborliness I wouldn’t go so far as to wish for the storm the northeast has now, but maybe that’s because we get our share of them here every year, well except for last year.

      All those little things you mentioned are exactly what community is and what the younger generations may never know. When I was first a single mother of two very small boys, it was a neighbor who came to me and introduced herself she offered babysitting and more, a few months later her son began college and she asked if they helped me with the gas money if I could take him on Monday and bring him home on Friday (I was a commuting student as well). While the help in gas was nice, it was having someone on the road with me as I traveled back and forth with my young sons in some horrible weather that was the best help of all. While I lived in that flat, an elderly neighbor began to bring my boys bananas when she saw us outside because she had no family or friends left, it started a friendship that continued even after I moved, until her death.

      I have learned a great deal in the past year as my physical abilities have decreased. I am still shocked to find someone cleaning off or digging out my door, offering to take trash out, or even the complete stranger who stopped to help me pick up my fallen groceries. I still find it hard to ask, but these people seem to understand that and don’t wait for me to ask. In return I have plenty of opportunities to give back.

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  6. Good subjects and great post. I have never been a fan of Valentines day. Like you, I try to show my love all year long. Community is vital to life. I miss it so much. I’m trying everything to connect here but it’s a transient community. Trying to connect at the Senior Centers and a church but all are at driving distance. Everyone comes from somewhere else that’s not close. Have met one neighbor here but she seems to be a needer of my things and time without much thought of others. We shall see. I’m very social so the isolation this illness has brought is very hard. I told my son, I’m looking for a community more than a house.

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    • I am sorry you are having so much trouble connecting to anyone near you. I do know what it’s like to live in those transient communities, having lived in Arizona for 3 years where work is temporary for most.

      I know you have trouble getting around. Do you have any type of program that would take you to things you need or want to go to? We have a program here called Lift. You apply and based on need pay a sliding scale for the transportation. Doctor appointments are always free, shopping and things like that are rather inexpensive. They are equipped for both able-bodied and wheelchair bound individuals. That may be a great service to use to get to the senior center or church.

      On the subject of where to live, a community is more important that the four walls you make your home, you are very smart to realize that.

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  7. I love what Laura said about how asking a member of your community for assistance builds trust. That’s so true. I have such a hard time asking my neighbors for anything but when they ask me, I feel really good. Maybe asking others for help is a gift that we can give them.

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    • For many I think being asked to help someone else gives them a sense of being needed that they may be lacking. I do understand your hesitance in asking for help, I do too. I hate to ever feel like I am putting someone out by asking for help, but I am getting better.

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  8. Well, you already know how I feel about Valentine’s Day. LOL A very dear friend asked me to watch LARS AND THE REAL GIRL. I watched it just today and, if you haven’t already seen it, please watch it. It shows great sense of caring in the community.

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    • Yes, Pam, I do know how you feel about Valentine’s Day. I loved your post today. I hadn’t heard of that movie/documentary? till now I will check it out. Have you ever watched A Day in the Life on Hulu? They have one about the mayor of a small town in PA which was very inspiring how deeply he cares for the people and the town he adopted as his own.

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  9. What a great post! And you are so right. I think families are largely unsupported in our society, due to lack of community. No wonder so many marriages fail, when we’re expected to provide everything for each other, with no support from the outside. No wonder there is so much anger, depression, and violence, when we’re expected to go it alone.

    Being connected to others, outside of our immediate family, is so very important. The strong sense of community is one of the reasons we love sailing, and living aboard in port towns. Not walled in by possessions, people interact with each other MUCH more.

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    • Families are largely unsupported today. My youngest son has made a few comments about how he and his wife wish there were jobs for him in his hometown area so their daughter could visit cousins and of course grandma. They have made many friends were they are at, but going out with friends has taken on the challenge of always bringing their daughter with them as they don’t have people who they feel comfortable asking to babysit. On the other hand, my eldest son still lives near me and he has the peace of mind knowing when he does need a sitter grandma is only 2 miles away.

      I have also found over the years, like you have with Moonraker, that living in an apartment where there is outside space and people aren’t as transient will forge closer bonds, like I have now. I imagine living on a boat where there is a huge learning curve would forge bonds even stronger than apartment living.

      We have some very large homes in my hometown, they have been split up into apartments now, but originally they housed 3 generations of family. Can you imagine the support you would have with grandparents who lived on one floor for the children to visit whenever needed, the extra homework help? The family members all came together for dinner with grandmother and mother preparing the dinner meal and the clean up together. Today more than ever with our busy lives I think it is time to reconsider the multi-generational homes and what this could mean for our children.

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  10. I am involved in the creative aspects of my community in Colchester. I share with you the idea that connection to community is important for self.

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