What does the term community mean to you? Does it bring up positive emotions of support and togetherness the way it should? Does it have as significant role in your culture and way of life? One definition I came across defines community like this:
Community: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.
And to be honest this is really the extent of how I perceived the term for many years. I always viewed community on a very large scale – a wider and more extensive term that described the people residing around me. I used to see it in a rather impersonal way, I don’t know why. Sure the word community describes people coming together and uniting over shared and common interests yet for me it didn’t really hold much depth or real significance.
That is until I began to change the way I view the term altogether. Now days, community is so much more than my local suburb holding a petition against animal abuse or relying on my signature to give our local park the long awaited overhaul it so badly deserves or coming together only to make improvements to our suburb or see a problem resolved. I’m not saying these aren’t stand-up values with strong moral intentions, that any community would be proud to encompass. I just don’t think these are a true reflection of the deeper more intimate parts of what a real community actively offer one another.
These days I don’t have to look any further than my immediate neighbours to feel that deeper sense of belonging and support. These days, community means so much more to me than the thousands of people who live in my vicinity – It means looking out for each others kids, offering a friend help on a crazy day, being part of a Moms group to receive support through the the hard times.
Community means relying on a friend to bring my child home from school because my pregnancy headaches make the trip impossible. Community is my child’s school trying their best to accommodate us knowing that I’m struggling with two kids at different schools and other commitments and who are always willing to go the extra mile for my kids.
Community is my church and the way it brings together people from all walks of life, the people who sit next to me on a Sunday and invite us over for Friday evening braais. Community is my group of mom friends, my village who help raise my kids and play the most vital role in how I parent my children and the kind of mom I am constantly striving to be.
Community is that feeling that you belong to something special and greater than what exists in the confines of your own home.
My community are the people I do life with, who support us and who celebrate life challenges with us. It’s not limited to rallies and petitions and trying to improve the infrastructure of our neighbourhood’s roads and parks.
Local community at it’s best can be the most incredible gift, because without it we become isolated and lonely and never learnt to extend ourselves or live outside of of bubbles. Without it we became self-reliant aliens who forget what it means to live side by side one another.
So I guess what I’m saying is that I have a new found love and appreciation for the people who make up my local community and all that they offer me. I am so grateful for neighbours and friends who have an open-door policy, for sometimes feeding my kids and letting me steal the occasional onion for our dinner. I’m also freshly inspired to keep extending myself to them, that we would all feel carried by each other as a group of people who are more than just informal humans residing near each other, but a united support structure to each other through all life’s up and downs.