What is community? The simple definition of community is a social unit with commonality such as place, norms, religion, values, customs or identity. I think a true community needs many of those things, not just one to make it, in fact, a true community. Many times, a community is viewed as simply a geographical boundary, not based on those born there but rather who is currently living there. It is more than that, much deeper than that. Community is knowing the people around you and being tied to the people around you. Just because you live next door to someone doesn’t mean you are in a community with that person. If a group of people have an intertwined history, they are more likely to be in a stronger community, and one sharing similar traditions and history.
We were having a men’s meeting at church, and it was going to be an all-day meeting. We took a break at lunch time. We all brought something to contribute: meat, bread, chips, cheese, and coffee. We made our lunches and discussed work and the like. We made fun of the guy that owned a pellet smoker, standard guy stuff. Something caught my attention that had an impact on what community really means and why it is so important.
We started cleaning up our mess and throwing things away in the trash. On top of the trash can was a note: “Please dump all liquids in the sink first” – George. This was a simple index card with a simple sentence written on it, but this actually struck me as a true definition of community. We all dumped our cups in the sink, just because we all knew George and he had asked us to do so. This is what community is actually about. In fact, we even double checked and made sure there weren’t any liquids in our cups, because George is a member of our community, and he empties the trash cans at church in his spare time as a contribution to his community. George’s simple note had caused us to make sure we didn’t create extra work for George, even though he wasn’t there. He was contributing to the betterment of his community, so we wouldn’t want to make things difficult for him.
This is the difference in community and commonality. Community is about building relationships with one another as families; yes, a central building block to a community is geographical location or common interest, but just because I live next to someone doesn’t mean we live in a community together. Just because we both drive the same type of vehicle does not mean we are in a community. What makes a community is caring for one another and being there for people when they need you, even when they don’t ask for help.
Communities are individuals with a common background and common history coming together to preserve something worth fighting for, and for the simple fact that they mean something to one another. When you know a person and remember the time they helped you out or the time you helped them, it creates a bond that is important. This is where culture is born. A real community will celebrate success and sorrow together, because each individual in the community is affected by these things. A community is where you can leave your doors unlocked and you can let your kids play outside from sunup until sundown without worry.
I used to live in such a community, the kids knew to behave because the parents all knew one another. Now that is gone, and the doors are locked at night and during the day. There are still spots of community where we double check things for George, and make sure our friends are okay, but we have lost the community that once was, and we need to get it back and restore our heritage for the future generations.