When I was growing up I not only knew my neighbors, I knew most of the people in my town. Somehow as I became an adult, and moved to a more condensed area and I got away from that. Without even realizing it, I had isolated myself from my neighbors. I considered this one day as I stood in my yard looking down the road at my neighbors homes, thinking about how I hardly knew them at all. I thought, during the early years of America’s growth, it seems people were almost forced to live closely with each other. They helped each other build their homes, shared water sources, birthed their babies, taught their children and buried their dead together. At times they fought, other times they laughed but they did it together. Two hundred years later, we struggle with the idea of community as though it were something foreign to us.
The good news is that historically, difficult times have almost always brought people together, and I think we are seeing the same thing happen today. The economic times we’re in are forcing some to partner in ways that probably never would have been conceived of in good times. Human Business Works for example, is creating learning communities for sustainable relationship-minded businesses. A quick search of the internet will reveal countless other collaborative altruistic endeavors are happening in our land. This is very exciting.
For many of us, it’s a return to our childhood way of interacting, but it’s still an adjustment; a different mindset than the way we’ve begun to live as adults. One friend who suffered a great loss recently was met with a tremendous rally of support from her faith community. She offered her thanks and said her biggest struggle was not the loss of her home and personal belongings, but that “to live in community is to be vulnerable.” This is perhaps the hardest part for many of us; we have come to value our independence so much that we fear intimacy with others. Perhaps we don’t want others to know we are sometimes weak, we make bad choices, we have doubts, we get confused, we have bad days, or maybe we’ve just gotten lazy.
Whatever the cause, it’s important to note that as we reach out to others in networking: It’s often very hard for many people to be themselves around others. We need to help each other see that there is nothing to fear. We understand because we’ve been there too. As we build hope and restore community we need to be very sensitive to the fact that “to live in community is to be vulnerable.” As we break down the walls of fear, we will begin to reap the benefits of community living once again.
Kudos to Chris Brogan, Rob Hatch and others who are leading the charge, rebuilding grass roots communities in America.
There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.
M. Scott Peck
May you find your way to risk being vulnerable, to build community; to find greater peace and life today.
Don F Perkins