What does community mean to you?

I know this is the second question I’ve posted this week, but it’s one I’ve been pondering lately.

Graham and I live in a tiny village. But that village is part of a county split between a busy, suburban east and a quiet, rural west. And that county is part of a state full of large metropolitan areas and even larger swaths of coastline, mountains, and small country towns.

By way of example, this is Virginia:

This is also Virginia:

And so is this:

In our village, we stay involved in civic and volunteer organizations, we support the businesses and the small school operating here, and we try to help our neighbors when they need it. We feel safe, and very happy. And in the next town over, we’ve got a whole second community – we play trivia every Thursday, we’re regulars at several businesses, and it’s pretty rare to walk down the sidewalk on any given day and not see someone we know. We feel connected here – to the people around us, to our local government, to the history that we’re becoming part of – and when we think about what community means to us, that’s it: connection.

Or perhaps it’s something a little deeper than that.

It’s feeling rooted, I think.

And I never thought I’d feel that way after I left my childhood home in southwest Virginia. I think many people worry about that, too, and I feel really lucky that I’ve found this place.

So, that’s community for me, then: people, place, connection, and roots. But I know that my world isn’t the world, and there are all kinds of ways to be part of a community.

Now, backing up.

I’ve been pondering all this of lately because I’ve been kicking around a new project idea, something that would explore where I came from, through the lens of where I am now, and with the wisdom and knowledge that I’ve gained as I’ve grown up (and continue to grow up…it’s a process, y’all). I’m not sure if I’m ready to write it at all, but I know that in order to write it well, I need more perspectives than just mine. I need to understand what people think of when they think of community. In order to really tell the story that I want to tell in a way that resonates, I think I need to know more about the people who will read it, where they come from and how they feel about community, and what their experiences have been in whatever places they’ve chosen to call home.

And so I put it to you, my wonderful readers, from so many different places, and with so many different passions and ideas:

What does community mean to you?

15 thoughts on “What does community mean to you?

  1. The need to belong to a community is important. It’s a security blanket and at the same time it gives us an opportunity to give and help others. To use our skills and feel alive at the same time.

    The importance of a community is explained beautifully in the book – Ikigai. It might interest you, Katie.

    To me, personally the concept of “Pay it forward” came first and then the sense of community.

    We are born in a community but it might not be necessary that we lay down our roots in that same community. I see myself retiring to a village in the hills and not in my hometown. Also, being in a metropolitan, I float between many communities but I have a specific tribe. This tribe consists of a group of people who understand and appreciate me and also encourage me to be the best version of myself.

    Thanks to the modern day technology, one can remain connected with one’s tribe no matter where we are.

    You have posed a very relevant question Katie, in your beautiful post. I hope I was able to contribute a bit to it.

    Thanks and love,

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment! I’ve read a couple of books on Ikigai, and one of them (can’t remember which) did talk about the connection with community. I’ll have to go back and look. I like the idea that your community can be more than just where you live – super interesting to think about! So much here that I’ll probably spend a lot of today thinking about, in fact,

      Liked by 2 people

  2. As you have hypothesized and will likely discover, community has many facets to it. I do not know where I first heard it, but it was in a story at the beginning of a workshop. In a guided meditation, I was to picture myself out in the darkness of the universe, where no light, no tree, no rock, no nothing existed other than me…and then the question was “How do you know you exist?” Without relationship, how would we know?
    Community has always been about relationship for me. When I left Texas and gave up that community that we had built together, at first it was like asking myself how I knew I existed anymore. Community here was grounded in relationships with those with whom I shared the bond of working for inclusion, equality, access, and a different south. It was hard to find “my people” here, and I watched others come in also and struggle with that, give up, and go back home to the communities they already had. As I get older, my sense of community has grown beyond the sense of place and to a sense of relationship with those with whom I feel a commonality that it matters what we do. It is always good to have someone helping to make the road by walking it. Community is answering the question “With whom do I belong? Where is it okay to be me?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the thought of focusing more on relationships, and I think the questions you pose at the end are absolutely critical to establishing yourself in a place (physically, and in life) that makes you happy and comfortable. And I didn’t talk a lot about comfort and being at ease, but it’s something I definitely have here, specifically because I’ve found people who make me happy, and who believe in me and my goals. So interesting to think about!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. weird thing, I was the black sheep of my family in PA. I never felt like I belonged there. Moved to VA (Richmond) and had friends in PA and VA but never felt any roots and moved around a lot. Now I’m in a big city but alone.
    After so many rejected paintings I give up on the art community. The non profits only want my money they didn’t like me or my paintings. I support local businesses and most people are friendly but they’re not in my life. I’m not a part of the community and not really trying anymore. I’m doing better mentally than when I was younger, so don’t worry. It’s liberating when you don’t try to get into the community. Plus, a lot of the population is military and not here for long anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting to think about a population that’s really transient, like the military, and how that impacts a place. Sorry to hear about the art community – that seems just really sad and not inspiring at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, the military and the people here on vacation. The art community, a lot of people like it but I quit! It’s not what you know it’s who you know. I have more inspiration than energy, so it’s ok. Thanks, Katie!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A good corner bar. A comfortable place for a burger where you can linger on a porch on a lackadaisical Friday night while a guitar player plays Tom Petty songs. A place to buy good meat. A place to get coffee and read a book. Cops and fire who come when you need them. A church without a poisoned mind. Teachers who care about your children. Friends. Helpers. Peace. Sunsets and cool mornings. Pathways and bike rides. America.

    Liked by 1 person

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