A Sense of Communitygreenspun.com : LUSENET : Friday Friends : One Thread
Over the past few weeks, a number of us have been exchanging e-mail about the meaning of community--especially with respect to Sunnyhill. I'd like to start a thread in which we collect notions about what fosters and what breaks down a sense of community. I'll start.
Learning something about an individual that opens a topic for discussion helps build community. So I like introductions that go beyond name, place, family, and job. Tell me three or four unusual bits of information about a person and I probably have a new friend.
-- Karen Bush (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 14, 1999
Sitting in rows facing forward does not foster it either. There is very little conversation afterwards. I used to roam the coffee hour, looking for people to talk to. They are not there. Social situations in which we can sit face to face, with activities to foster knowing these common "hooks" - that's what we need! There will be a get acquainted party next week. For who? newbies, and board members. And maybe one or two others. We need something similar for everybody! The Friday Friends do not have that problem. We sit in a circle and we share our thoughts openly. We get to know eachother better with each meeting. Too bad Sunnyhill can't take a hint from us!
-- tippi comden (email@example.com), January 15, 1999.
A community implies common interests. Our community has no hierarchy of importance or rank, we are without a "leader". We do have a guiding influence: encouraging the spititual/mental growth and enjoyment of one another.
-- ken Wagner (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 16, 1999.
I think building a community takes more than just sharing experiences. Seems to me it also needs occasions to reminisce ... to share *memories* and *stories* about those shared experiences. To create an oral tradition, if you will. Generally, such occasions have in the past been social events, where people from the community tell tales about their adventures together. I gather that the Sunnyhill community doesn't get together much any more, except to raise money. Maybe a monthly Campfire Evening on the patio would work!
-- Carl Arendt (email@example.com), January 17, 1999.
For a sense of community to exist in a person, one must have common interests with the others. For an individual to feel he/she must change the group or its orientation is more of a job than a social exchange. Friday Friends presents no challange or battleground for personal accomplishment which attitude unfortunately seems to motivate an ever increasing number of people younger than myself. This perhaps why I speak so disparagingly about the overwhelming influence that competitive sports exerts on our general society. I feel welcome and what I have to offer is appreciated by FF. Whereas, myself and others I have seen at Sunnyhill are expected to be there to serve the agenda of those in control. I don't appreciate being "used". The experinces of others, shared to enrich those listening (not to brag) does build community and FF does that effectively.
-- Ken Wagner (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 18, 1999.
I hope I may say something too without intruding, even though I am physically not a part of your community. I'm Helen Hille; I live in a small off-highway Alaskan town, with, as Tippi has described it, a great sense of community which I will miss when I leave. I've known Tippi and Larry Comden since high school many moons ago. They are part of my life. With the advent of the www we've become much more involved with each other. There are less than 300 people here in Seldovia. It is very true that if you know a few things about people - face to face - they become acquaintances. Then as you select out each other for whatever connectedness you feel, gradually getting to know each other a bit, the community is strengthened too. Seldovia's backbone are those who will never leave - the native american blendss who were born here and will die here. They gradually incorporate some of the newcomers into the families by marriage, and make them part of it. Their children both seek to leave and yet return to join the base. These people keep the community going. But those who flit into and then back out of town give it the energy to change and grow. In either case, I've seen that the people of this community are THERE for each other when crisis strikes, as it does to each individual. In a big place such as Pittsburgh it seems to me that you have done by selection what has happened here by geography - form a community like that, with both backbone and sparks. It's a wonderful combination. What breaks down this sense of community?
In our case it's the developing summer-home crowd. They're here not to paricipate in the town as much as to wall themselves away from us. I try to bring the individuals into the events we sponsor such as the pancake feed on the 4th of July at the firehall- have been very successful with my neighbor behind me. But she's a delight who'd fit well in any circle. Some others make us feel that they are users - rather than sharers; that the "townies" are here to serve as their gardeners/ snowshovellers/ streetsweepers and their taxes and tips require no other participation. The people they bring with them each weekend don't do pancake breakfasts; they don't coffee at the Coffeehouse, entering into our banter, even when invited; they don't even eat at our restaurants. They bring their own boats and gtroceries and maintain their own counsel. The old timers who retired, went Outside for the winter, and come back every summer are not the ones I mean; their roots here are deep and they aren't snobbish. It's the new buyers. This community needs to foster connectedness, not walling-off. It's disheartening to see this beginning here in Seldovia, for the momentum is hard to curb if not corrected early on. So we keep trying. Maybe we're just entering the California 90's here, with the gated and walled communities. Participation brings connected-ness, I think. Thanks for letting me put in my two-cents-worth.
-- Helen Hille (email@example.com), January 19, 1999.
Helen--Mind if you contribute? Absolutely not. This discussion is on the Internet so that we can broaden it. Your story is a sad one. I'd try to think of a suggestion or two but it sounds like you're trying everything possible to sustain the spirit of your community.
Last night, Sunnyhill had its annual spaghetti dinner, sponsored by the Youth Group, with the Minister as Chef. The event is usually so large that it requires three seatings. This year, presumably due to a shift in timing, there were many fewer people. Rooms were less crowded and, as a consequence, I could talk better with people. Nice sense of community. I was able to meet and spend a few hours talking with a delightful new member of our community and her daughter. So....small groups, food, time and freedom to talk. Nothing new there--just thought I'd note it.
-- Karen Bush (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 24, 1999.