The Value of Community is the first in three-part series on Community. This article explores the true meaning of community and the value it brings.
What is Community?
The word “Community” may bring to mind a town, apartment complex, a subdivision, or a general neighborhood. However, community, generally stated, is not a place, but more of a feeling and a belonging.
A community can be any “group of people with a common characteristic.” Merriam-Webster lists several other related descriptions, but they all come down to multiple people that share something in common. In some cases, it might be a location or a specific profession. It could also be a specific interest or a common history.
One might simply view community as a group of people. Yet, community is more than that. True community requires relationships with others without those relationships it is simply a group of people. In other words, you can group people by any characteristic, but that alone does not make them a community.
For example, you may have experienced a situation in your life where you lived in an area, but didn’t feel as if you were a part of the community. Perhaps you were an outsider or the people just didn’t build relationships with each other.
Having a sense of belonging requires some level of caring about other members of the group. That caring brings with it the knowledge that member of your community will be there for you when you need them. Likewise, you will drop everything to help a member of your community.
In rural areas where families have lived near each other for multiple generations, the sense of community runs deep. They know who does and doesn’t belong. You can be treated like family simply because they knew your granddad.
Types of Communities
Groups that can form a community include many types beyond people that live near each other. Churches are one of the most common examples. They have common beliefs, some sense of shared history, and common experiences. They build strong relationships with each other and often consider other members of their church family.
Schools, particularly small ones or ones with a particular mission, can become a community. It can also apply to a subset of a school. For instance, the school band or the basketball team may create very strong bonds with each other.
The same can be true in work environments, for groups with the same interest, for clubs, or Meetups. Each of these can simply be a group of people. However, with the right environment, they can become a community.
The Value of Community
The question is, “Why is community so important?” Well, you can think of a community as an extended family. It provides you support when you need it, opens the door to new possibilities, and can help celebrate the joys in your life. They can even be there for you when you don’t ask and sometimes even when you don’t know that you need someone.
A great example occurred twenty plus years ago. On that day, one neighbor called to another, who lived about a quarter of a mile away, to ask what was wrong. The reason for the call was simply that the second neighbor’s husband had taken the corner by the first neighbor’s house faster than normal. They simply knew each other’s habits and cared enough to check up on the other family. As it turned out, the man had gotten a call about a fire at his brother’s house about a mile away and he was on his way to help save his brother’s home.
Because the neighbor checked to see what was wrong, they learned what was happening to another member of their community. They were also able to go assist. The home was saved and the community became stronger.
In the next article, we will explore the loss of community and its impact on people.