What does it mean to live “in community”? How do we define community?
Most of us grew up as part of pre-determined communities. We were born into a family, we were raised up in a village, town, neighborhood, tribe. Some of us were brought up going to a place of worship as part of our weekly routine. Families and groups create their own unique routines, rituals, customs. I learned plenty about rituals growing up in the Roman Catholic faith!
Growing up on a farm, one might have experienced community as living with their extended family, including hired workers, and pets and farm animals, as well as the local grange community. Communing is living in common with others, sharing the same space and maybe meals and chores.
When we got older, we entered the community of school–teachers, students, administrators, sports teams, speech & theatre groups, and other school clubs. Watching the series “Glee” reminds me of all the clubs and activities I was involved in during junior/senior high school: AFS, languages, newspaper, yearbook, literary magazine, softball, basketball, and Girl Scouts are some that I remember. How about you? What do you remember? And in what ways is your family now involved in community?
There were even more activities and groups when I went away to college! Living in a university dorm was the first time I lived away from my family and with other people–mostly total strangers (at first). Like a small town, a college community works hard to bring people together and to assist with socialization. Most campuses have a “commons,” often with offices dedicated to various campus clubs, and we enjoyed hanging out there when not in our dorms or the library. I loved living on campus and being a part of so many different groups and mini-communities such as our “house” in our dorm. We all made many good friends–some lifelong friends–by living, eating, playing, partying, and learning together during that time.
On my recent cross-country trip, I was fortunate to visit and stay with many family and friends (including two of my college buddies), but also with total strangers or “friends of friends”…who quickly became my new friends. I spent a lot of time with my mom in Iowa, who at 91 is now residing in an independent living facility and making new friends all the time in this senior community. Now that I have returned from my trip, I am living with a dear friend and her family in Brooklin, negotiating the details of everyday life in common. Yes, community is about relationships and learning to live together. . .to co-exist. Community is also about service. Moving to Maine in 1988 with my partner, we had many opportunities to serve the various organizations and communities we got involved with–and met a whole lot of nice people by doing so.
Although I think we are born into certain situations that might limit us, we can choose to create our own tribe, our own community, our own circles out of our desires and needs. So, then the question is, What do I desire? What do I want? How can I be of service? Look at what you have already, what you are a part of, and give a bunch of gratitude for that! Next, write down a list of your dreams and desires. With whom do you want to be hanging out? Where are you drawn to? What would you do if time, money, age, ability, and other conditions were of no concern? Who can help you achieve those dreams–or at least be a supportive friend along the way? (We call this a “partner in believing.”) Now, can you create a community around that dream or desire? Yes! That group does not have to be pre-existing, like the family you were born into. Remember, “We either live our lives by default or by design” (Mary Morrissey). You have the power to design your dream and attract the people, the community, the tribe to come together to manifest the dream. I know you can do this because I have done this.
Here are some real life examples of this happening in my world–some small and simple, others with a broader or more profound impact.
- Women with Wings, a sacred singing circle for women started by Kay Gardner
- drumming circles and 8,000 Sacred Drums ceremonies which I have organized
- Green Gem Holistic Healing Oasis, a new nonprofit healing space in Bangor
- Meg Chittenden’s At Home in Harmony project, an illustrated songbook and instructional CD
- BARKA Foundation, an NGO working in Burkina Faso, started by my friend Ina Anahata (Anne Moffet)
- the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers and the local 14th Grandmothers groups
- Sustainable Harvest International, founded by Surry, Maine resident Flo Reed
- the Power Pants/Shakti women’s group we started on the Blue Hill Peninsula
- Blue Hill Co-op, still going strong after 40 years, started by a small group of friends and neighbors
- Hemophilia Alliance of Maine (HAM), started by Jill Packard, a mother of 2 boys with bleeding disorders
- intentional community and retreat center on the Blue Hill Peninsula
Envision that which you desire–visualize the details. If you can conceive it and believe it, you can receive it and achieve it. If you can think it/dream it, you can do it! (Yes, it happens every day, all over the world.)
So, what does community mean to you? Which nurturing communities or groups have you created or belonged to? Are you interested in living with others on community land? Belonging to an intentional community? We would love to hear from you!
My dream is to create a healing arts center and intentional community right here on the coast of Maine. Please be in touch with me, Eileen, if you share this vision and want to belong to, create and grow such a community. We need each other, now more than ever.