We all need a sense of belonging. When relationships form around shared values, ideals, beliefs and even pastimes we begin to form a community. We feel we are heard, seen, understood and, if all is going well, valued. We are part of a ‘tribe’. This sort of community gives us a deep sense of belonging.
More generally, ‘community’ refers to a location as much as a group. We live in communities and, a bit like our culture, we may not be aware that we are part of it or what it stands for until something happens to draw our attention to it.
Most of us are members of several communities. From a statistical point of view, demographics are partly responsible for this. We are defined by age group, ethnicity, postcode and education, for example.
But real community – the sort that includes citizenry, shared interest, loyalty, fellowship, altruism and concern for humanity – is less visible. It is ever-present though, and we are all part of it in some way.
A community is held together by shared interest and respect for other members. In this sense of community, people rally round ideas and aspirations in the hope of carrying both forward. Certainly, any member can have their own agenda but they realise that this is secondary to the purpose of the community (incidentally, this should also apply for members of a team, in the workplace).
Like so many aspects of our lives it is a matter of choice whether we actually participate in our communities or not. Many pay lip-service to the values while doing nothing about it.
I suppose you could say that they are passive community members. They don’t actually do much to help their community flourish, but they don’t do anything against it either.
On the other hand, there are those who are able to bring some passion to the game. They explore what they think and feel about who they are, where they fit in the grand scheme of things, their purpose, and what it all means to them.
Most of them don’t actually advertise it, but they are the anchor points of community. They are not constrained by the demographic boundaries that limit so many sections of our societies. They come in all colours, shapes, and sizes. Age is no barrier, neither is income, education nor belief system.
These ‘contributors’ in our communities are often the unsung heroes, in many cases invisible until after they have gone. You probably rub shoulders with one or two of them each week without realising it; at the checkout queue, on your commute, wherever…
You might even be one of them. After all, it is a matter of choice, not birthright.