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Some Notes on Building a Sense of Community

I wanted to share some of my journey with regards to understanding what it means to be part of a community. There are times where I came to understand it through active changes I’ve made in my life, as well as times when they came about in a way I never expected, how they all came together to help me see some of the more global matters more clearly.

From One Lesson to Another

Open Invitations

Let’s start with teen me. I never thought I’d ever get married, I never wanted it. I didn’t understand people, much less women, much less children. I wanted nothing to do with anyone, yet you may as well have said that Islam forbids you from cutting ties like that. It would always encourage coming together as a community, so I always did what I could to allow others to be a part of my life and for me to be a part of theirs.

Something I tended to do was that, whenever I wanted to do something I thought others would either like to experience too or they might find useful, like mountain hiking, visiting gardens or castles or exploring new places in general etc., I’d send out an open invite for people to tag along.

I always sent it out, hoping nobody would accept.

Sometimes people did. Sometimes they were persistent in doing so. There was this one person of note who insisted on tagging along. Plot twist, I ended up marrying her.

A Better Dad

That was what you could consider my first major step in understanding the significance of community. Up until I got married, I was clearly insincere when it came to being around people. I had my life, they had theirs, end of. It was only when I got married that I realised it was no longer about how I felt, every choice I made would impact those around me.

This understanding would take itself further when I had children. I had to see life from their perspective if I wanted to become a better dad. I wanted to teach them about being responsible, so once they were able to clean up after themselves, I’d remind them to do so. They could refuse and I’d clean up after them, but, well, it was going to be in my own time. I wasn’t going to go out with them nor give them any snacks until they could show me they deserved it, so it was always in their best interests to clean up. As soon as they started cleaning, I’d join in whenever I could so that I could reduce the load for them because they were children, they should be playing.

This habit would help me to understand what it meant to seek support from those around me. I came to realise that sometimes I had to give people the chance to help me if I wanted them to feel safe to ask for something similar. It wasn’t because I needed help, it was because I wanted a reason to bond with them. The idea is simple: if you can do it alone, it doesn’t always mean you should. You don’t eat together because you’ll feel lonely otherwise, you eat together because you want to get to know how the days of those you care about went by, for these to be moments in themselves where you look back at and cherish. It’s for this same reason you might decide to ban tech from family dinners. Likewise–even if you can do something better alone–you might let someone else take the lead because you wanted a reason to be with those you cared about, to let them know we can look to each other for support as we move towards something better.

A Sense of Community

When this goes on for long enough, dominoes start to fall. I took time out when I could to let the children play out in the street. Every so often, we’d notice other children were out playing too, but they were all too shy to play together at first. Eventually, they got used to each other. When one went out, the rest would come too. The streets became lively with children playing on a regular basis, my wife and I got to know the neighbours better because we all had to look out for the children, we agreed this is what life should be like for the children, that they shouldn’t be cooped up in their homes all day. There it is, another step against our reliance on gadgets, another step for them and us to interact and mature.

For so long in my life I wondered, how do we go about building a sense of community with each other? It’s turns out that when you make the time for one person, it tends to lead to another, and another, and another, until you finally have the community you’re looking for.

I learnt to set up those pieces, to let God string it altogether into something beautiful.

A Reality Through You

A little like how every structure can be described as a bunch of individual blocks, all ultimately supporting one another.

When I look back at it all, then look to the global issues we find ourselves in, a lot becomes clear. For example, why do we brush those issues under the rug? Rather than answering this, I’ll instead ask,

Did you set up a mature, open environment where people could tell you their concerns and hopes?

If we had, then maybe we might have realised that the original question may have been more an assumption than a truth. After all, if they were willing to donate when asked, wouldn’t that have been a sign they cared? Similar to what I’d found with the neighbour I was talking to, maybe many of us wanted their children to be less reliant on their tech and be more active, but we simply hadn’t found a way yet. Maybe it’s not that the people don’t care, it’s that they didn’t know how to go about it.

I get the idea that both the ones being blamed and the ones playing the blame game most likely didn’t know. If that’s the case, maybe it’s worth scaling back and getting to know each other better. In terms of how it happens online, it might not necessarily mean posting every itty-bitty bit of detail in our lives, we might even be able to get away with never letting anyone know about it. Sometimes it’s enough for you to look beyond the facts: long enough to realise you can’t keep talking like a book if you want to be a reality the people can trust.

That’s my final take anyhow. This post is more to do with some of the stuff I’ve come to recognise about community. Have you noticed anything else that might contribute or found something different to what I’ve mentioned so far?

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