Last week we talked about the meaning of community. We decided that community truly is (or to the best of my understanding) any group sharing something in common.
My wife and I both grew up in relatively stable households. Although both sets of our parents had seen divorce, remarriage, and (eventually) blended family units, we never felt like we were social outcasts. We both had opportunities to go on family vacations, our holidays were full of people coming and going, and we were encouraged to communicate and share in a number of situations. We both knew community and knew that it offered some key elements:
- Happiness. Hardly a day went by that we didn’t laugh and tell jokes and sing songs. Smiles were commonplace in our homes.
- Perspective. We realized quickly that the world didn’t revolved around us and that there were others to consider.
- Encouragement. Our parents participated in PTAs, scouts, church, etc. They rallied behind us when we hit home runs and when we struck out. Most of all they were there to remind us that tomorrow was another day.
- Responsibility. We both learned early on that we had to work to keep up our houses and that even the smallest of efforts was needed to keep things running smoothly.
- Accountability. To be successful you need to know that for every action there is a reaction.
It has become disheartening these last few years though as we have seen our nieces and nephews, friends and relatives, and others disregard the need for community. With the advent of the Internet and with the unbelievable growth of social media we hardly have to interact with each other on a day-to-day basis. Retail locations have self-checkout (no baggers any longer). Banks allows you to deposit checks be TXTing a photo. Trips to grandmothers house have been replaced with Facetime conversations. Donations and tithing can be done online with linked bank accounts. Even vacations can be planned down to the meal with online reservations.
But that does not mean that community is not necessary. In fact in his 1887 thesis Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies outlined two types of community or more specifically human association. The first is Gemeinschaft which is translated to mean ‘community’ and the second is Gessellschaft which translates to ‘society’ or ‘association.’ As he explores these two Tönnies makes a point to say that no group is wholly Gemeinschaft or wholly Gessellschaft. In fact, he details why humans need a healthy mix of the two. His writing though is is theoretical though and lacks a practical application. Not once does he answer the question of how to obtain community without sacrificing “me” time or upsetting the G und G balance. Hopefully these 5 ways will help you:
- Faith-Based. If you are spiritual or religious consider joining a group filled with like-minded people. A number of RV parks offer non-denominational chapel services as well as some small groups or Bible studies. You can also find a local church while on the road that welcomes you and gives you a familiar feeling. As a tiny houser who is parked you may want to check out local churches, synogogues, temples, or the like. If nothing else it will be worth the coffee talk before hand and the handshakes after.
- Munchies. Make food. Invite others over to share in it. Have a happy hour at your house or in your backyard. “Breaking bread” is a fantastic way to meet and converse with people.
- Presence. Take on a roll of being a friend who others know they can count on or even call up to talk to. It may inconvenience you at time but it is such a simple way to engage. You can also check out local mentoring options. I know at our local public library there is a group of reading mentors who once a week volunteer with other adults to read to school-age children. Don’t leave these things up to someone else. It may never get done!
- Network. Networking has become such a corporate term in the last few years that many of us have forgotten that the definition is – quite simply – a group or system of interconnected people or things. It is being part of a group of like-minded folks. Events are just the physical manifestation of those networks. I immediately think of the tiny house Meetup groups held in Boston, Boise, and south Florida, where like-minded folks can meet each other and talk tiny despite their other affiliations. From these sort of events are born authentic friendships.
- Family Tree. A large part of the tiny house life and the nomad life is spent focusing on relationships. It is about cultivating the love you have for your family and the love they share with you. I can remember quite well when my parents stopped being just my folks and started also being my friends. That meant a great deal to me and to them and we learned to cherish each other thereby increasing the value of our time together.
- BONUS: Walking. Seems simple enough, right? Put one foot in front of the other. But when you commit to walking, be it your neighborhood, your campground, or even a local park, you are more than likely going to encounter others. If you add talking to your walking you may just end up walking away with a new community!
In what ways to do you work to increase community? How does it make you feel? Can you imagine a life without community?