I feel at ease here, I fit in, I can relax and be myself; this is where I
belong. The people I care about and the people that care about me are here. I
feel connected, safe, and alive here. My anxiety and
stress fade away as I become engaged within the
- A group of people who have significant, positive social interactions.
- a social group where each individual has a significant
every other individual.
- A group of people each connected to one another.
- The place where I belong
- At home
- Among friends, where I am accepted.
Synonyms for community include affiliation, alliance, clan,
neighborhood, and village. It is the opposite of isolated, apart,
detached, disconnected, and fragmented.
A clique is not a community. A clique is an exclusive group—defined largely
by who is not included. A community is an inclusive group which extends its
hospitality and welcomes all. Brotherhoods, fraternities, and
fellowships may be closer to cliques than communities.
The relationships in a community go well beyond transactions and move us
toward transformation. Your frequent interactions with the checkout person at
the supermarket are probably transactional—you present the food items and pay the
bill. If you asked about her family, and really cared about the answer, you are
taking a step toward transformation.
A community is a gathering that is inclusive, connected, constructive, and
- The group is inclusive, inviting strangers and welcoming all to join in. It is not an exclusive
- Each person is connected to the others and has significant
interactions and relationships with the others. It is not isolation, nor fragmentation.
- The activities are constructive; the people are working to advance the
interests and experience of the whole. The interactions, while certainly
spirited at times, are always candid and are intended to
improve the well-being of the
community. People genuinely care about each other and the community as a
whole. It is not backbiting, pandemonium, a battlefield, nor mayhem. As
conflict inevitably arises, potential predators
deliberately restrain themselves and prohibit
- The community members are active, involved, engaged, sincere, and
committed. Each person is present and engaged in the activities of the
group: contributing, caring, listening, and volunteering their time, energy,
creativity, and other gifts. Dissent is welcome because it is
originates from commitment rather than denial, obstruction, or apathy. No
bystanders, spectators, posers, or other inert, tentative, insincere,
resigned, apathetic, or superficial placeholders are here wasting time and space.
The Essence of Community
Citizen-to-citizen engagement, a focus on the well-being of the whole, and
hospitality to all are
the essential elements of a community. When citizens choose to:
- become accountable for connecting to each other, all others,
- take ownership for their own role in creating the present conditions,
- describe the promise of a future that can be, and
- commit themselves to fulfilling that promise together,
then the community emerges, often overcoming adverse economic conditions,
poor leadership, broken systems, and ineffective institutions and government.
Reciprocity works well within a community
because it is easy to keep score. Reputations are earned and well known. It is
readily apparent who contributes fully, who is slacking off, who is selfish and
fails to share, who is disingenuous or insincere, who avoids responsibility,
and who cheats. Members of the community reciprocate, either positively or
negatively, to quickly and consistently reward or punish community members
according to their contribution. This engages the community members and moves
them toward accountability and away from entitlement.
In his book Bowling Alone
defines the term social capital to
describe the quality of the relationships and the cohesion that exists
citizens. He found that community health, educational achievement, local
economic strength, and other measures of community well-being depended on the
level of social capital existing in a community.
As people associate with one another in various capacities, at the kitchen
table during a family dinner, stopping to talk as we encounter each other on the
sidewalk, at the card club, or the school meeting, people form relationships
that provide a pool of friends. These friends can be relied upon when times are hard, we
need a ride to the train, or the poor elderly woman next door needs snow
shoveled off her walkway. Each of these relationships is an asset, and each
contributes to the social capital of the community.
Benefits of a Healthy Community
Hospitality, belonging, caring, generosity, engagement, commitment,
behaviors, trust, meaningful relationships,
safety, peace-of-mind, and empathy can all emerge when you belong to a community.
Community members have their relatedness
need fulfilled. The
possibility of abundance can begin to replace scarcity and
fear. Hope can find a home.
Contribution and Enrollment
In their book
The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life
authors Rosamund and Benjamin Zander describe the importance of contribution and
enrollment. A contributor is someone who is genuinely and
enthusiastically making a difference. A contributor is taking risks and is
working from passion and commitment rather than fear to achieve significant results for the
community. We are enrolled when we are inspired to become contributors.
A community creates a fertile context where contribution and enrollment can
emerge. Contribution and enrollment are essential for achieving the
possibilities of a better world.
Lack of Community
Isolation, alienation, loneliness, distrust,
fear, hostility, anger, greed,
detachment, apathy, disengagement, malaise, fragmentation, predation, cynicism,
anxiety, class struggles, and stress are all symptoms of a lack of community.
Without community our need for
relatedness cannot be fulfilled and
chronic deficits persist.
Several emotions help to strengthen our community ties:
- Guilt alerts us when we fail to meet the
community's standard of behavior.
- Shame is our failure to meet our own standard of
behavior, often because of an insufficient community contribution.
- Anxiety, fear, and
anger often increase when we do not feel we
belong to a community.
- Hate and fear may be felt
toward those we have not yet welcomed into our community.
- We may feel contempt for people who are not
meeting community expectations.
- We especially feel compassion for and
gratitude toward those in
- The sense of belonging we feel in a community can give us
hope and help us avoid
- “It has become impossible for me to ignore the fact that the world we are
creating does not come close to fulfilling its promise.” ~ Peter Block
- “If you don't go to somebody's funeral, they won't come to yours.” ~
Community: The Structure of Belonging,
by Peter Block
The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life,
by Rosamund Stone Zander, and Benjamin Zander
Strength in What Remains, by
Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,
Robert D. Putnam