Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Community Building

Unless you've been living under a rock, or have the privilege/luxury to do so, you have heard the news from Ferguson, MO. There are many thoughts and feelings I could write well into the night about.  I will spare you all of that, for now.

I want to take a moment to write about one thing: Community Building.

I read a comment on a social media site of a friend.  She wrote,
"How do you defeat an unjust system? You rely on it to the least extent possible. How do you do that? By relying on each other to the greatest extent possible. Did you get that?"

And I, too, ask, "Did you get that?"

Over the passed several years, I have sought to be about what I'm looking for.  I have talked and hoped and dreamt about it and have been searching for others who are looking for the same. I have been in search of the communities we often speak of from days gone by. The ones where you knew your neighbors. You could go next door to ask for an egg or a cup of sugar. Everyone looked out for everyone else's children. Men-folk did the fixin' of things and mothers always had something good to eat to share. Things weren't always easy but everyone had what they needed and when they didn't others were willing to share what they had so everyone had enough.

We've lost a lot of that. I'm sure you can list along with me reasons why this is the case. We no longer live close to family and friends. Our jobs/career choices lead us to places outside the community we wanted to live in. Times are hard and we can barely provide for our own let alone someone else. We don't have time to do that with all the things we're involved in (in other places/spaces).

I think these are valid. I know there are many more. But I believe the main reason for all those reasons is this:  We've been chasing someone else's dream.

Sit with that for a minute or two. Take a moment to really think about that and all that it means.

What are your dreams? Are they truly yours or are they ones you've been told to dream? Conditioned to dream? 

I recently started writing out my intentions here on the blog and invited you to join me.  Several of you have (Yay) and we're seeing first hand how simple this can be in getting the ball rolling.

Community works much the same way. When we find people we can do life with everyone can benefit.

Unfortunately, this type of community just doesn't happen anymore.  Especially if you're attempting it with people who you're just getting to know. This community building takes time, energy--from all involved, and resources.  It takes risking and trusting and being open to getting hurt in the process. It requires honesty--showing up as who you are; not simply sending your representative.

Too often, in many of the spaces I belong, we do a lot of talking, wishing, hoping, dreaming and not enough trusting, risking, asking, acting, moving--bringing things into being. If you always have a reason or excuse as to why you can't do it or what you need to get first before you can do it or how things need to be for you personally before you can offer something to someone else--we will continue to be in a place with no real community ties.

What I have learned from what has taken place in our nation over the last few days via the media (yes, I realize it's all a show), social media and from listening and talking with people around me is that if we really want things to be different we are going to have to do it differently.  There are ways of being that we already know work. Our elders have taught them to us or at least tried to. We may not have valued them then but we can reach back to that knowledge and pick it back up.

It's going to be hard work--there are no shortcuts to this kind of community building.

'Living simply,' 'being green,' 'living off the land,' 'unplugging'--all of these are ways of reconnecting ourselves to what our grandparents knew and lived daily. (If you're a millennial, perhaps it's your great-grandparents?) You purchased a few things that were needed and you made or grew everything else--or you knew someone who did and bartered with them.

I'm hearing over and over again that our money is where our power lies. If this is true, then shouldn't we be spending it differently? Wouldn't budgeting be worth our time? Why aren't we spending it wisely and within our own community? I know. These answers aren't always easy. I'm rethinking my choices now, too, and looking to make better choices myself. I know I have a certain level of skills and a good amount of talents. I personally several others who do as well. If we decide to put what we have together, our resources will automatically multiply.

Side note: I see, all to often, that we run in droves to the dominate culture to [re]acquire many of these skills. (To list a few: gardening, canning, cooking, sewing, quilting, knitting) We invest our money in classes and workshops in which they show us what many of our parents and grandparents already knew/know. Might I suggest that if we must spend money, we spend it with those from our own community first? There are many mature adults who would love to share their skills with you and your children, if you'd only ask.  Yes, another reason why community building is vital for our future.

Another friend I've spoken to over these passed two days said that she has been hesitant about this level of community because there are "so many people" out there that just "want to take what you're offering" and have no intentions of giving back.  Sadly this is true. We have been groomed into 'consumers at all costs'. Typically when we show up into a space we want to first know what it's going to cost us and then what we're going to get out of it. This way of thinking doesn't translate well when we're looking to build an intentional community. We'll never fully reap the benefits from it nor will we make the connections with others that are meaningful. If we change our perspective and ask instead 'Does this community match up with what I want for myself/my family?' followed by "What can I bring and add to what is already here?" We will probably move closer to what we're hoping for and will receive more in return than we can tangibly show.

Community building is tough, sometimes lonely, work.  But the rewards totally outweigh the hard work involved.  I guess this is why I continue to do so.  I have found success in some spaces; others, not as much.  But this type of investment is what is required.  This is the change that I see that can have lasting affects on our community, our children, our future.

I am even more determined to connect with and draw others into this intentional community I am seeking to grow. You may hear from me personally over the next few weeks. It's important to figure out just how we can all work together, what resources we have, what skill-sets we bring and ultimately what our dreams are for ourselves and our children. Not every community is for everyone. However, we can be of encouragement and support to each other. We can tell the truth. We can honor each other with our wisdom and insight. We can listen. We can share. And ultimately, move forward together.

Be well.

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