What is community?

According to Merriam Webster community is:

1: a unified body of individuals: as a: state, commonwealth b: the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly: the area itself c: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location d: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society e: a group linked by a common policy f: a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests  g: a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society

To me this means a community is exactly what you make of it and my personal sense of community has gone through several definitions.

Starting out as a child growing up in a small neighborhood in a mid-sized Midwest town my sense of community didn’t expand much beyond my dead end neighborhood street. Even though there were friends in my elementary school, if they didn’t live nearby it was impossible to see them outside of school without arranging play dates (and I assume this arrangement has grown in necessity as school districts continue to expand and housing ‘communities’ continue to grow further divided and distant.) After the fourth grade I switched schools and therefore switched communities of sorts. However, I didn’t move so in theory my neighborhood community should have stayed intact, but it didn’t due to changing interests, schools, friends, etc.

The year I started high school my family moved to a larger city in a different state. Everything and everyone I had ever known no longer existed. I moved again before my sophomore year and then back for my junior and senior years. During this time I lost all concept of community. Even the consistent amount of volunteering I participated in didn’t give me a sense of connection that was missing and to me a key component of any definition of community.

Once in college I quickly developed a very tight, narrow and closed off community of likeminded (same focus of study) individuals. This continued into my first job, as the profession is a very specialized community not interacting with outside forces. Friends and coworkers can argue the opposite if they choose, but this is my perspective and perhaps this view of community isolation is my own doing, perhaps others were actually engaging with the local community and I was completely left out of the loop. (I don’t think this is the case).

My current definition of community is vastly different thanks to either graduate school or the city or both. This definition is one that I wish to be a part of entirely and find ease in doing so. While I still can’t say I will be a permanent resident (only the future knows what will be) I can say I want to be a permanent member of a community and participate actively.

What does this mean for the future? How are you an active member of a community? Or are you not?


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