One of the more common complaints about modern life is that, more and more, our communities seem to be disappearing. This is especially true in large cities, where a large proportion of residents are renters, uprooted from the diverse towns and cities they grew up in, and moved into apartment buildings where they might not ever speak to their neighbors. It is also increasingly true in less built-up places – comer towns that are slowly infiltrated by people moving up and out of the cities into the suburbs. These people might know their neighbors by name, but still seldom interact with them.
As a result, we end up with towns and cities across the country which feel completely soulless. Grid systems are dotted with buildings which could be anywhere –shopping malls, gas stations, drive thru restaurants and the like. Our children may build some bonds with their town through their school and their friends, but for most adults, it’s simply a place to park the car and lock themselves in the house between work shifts.
It is in such places that we hear the cries of disbelief when a tragedy such as a mass shooting or domestic abuse come to light. We hear the same phrases: “a quiet man who kept himself to himself”, “she said hello once in a while but that was it”, “nobody had any idea”, etc. Of course, these phrases could be said of pretty much everyone in the area, as nobody really has any idea about their co-denizens.
All this may be surprising, when we consider that property prices in areas with a greater sense of community tend to be higher. Many people long to belong to a community, but don’t know how to help create one.
It’s much easier to sit at home with the TV and bemoan this state of affairs and blame the previous generation, the government, rap music or the secret new world order for all of these problems, than it is to go out there and try to start building a community. But, if you do decide do take action, the potential rewards are more than worth it.
As we have seen, kids are often more involved with other locals than their parents. They may play sports together, hang out at the mall, be members of scouting or cadet organizations etc. Such groups provide opportunities for parents to interact, too. While your kids are doing their thing, you could organize some kind of activity for the adults, too. If your kids are playing soccer, you could, of course, organize a moms and pops game, too, although this isn’t usually a popular idea. Instead, why not organize a lunch or even a picnic. Each week, participants can bring one item they prepared themselves. You can share recipes and set challenges for each other. Similar activities which also work are book clubs, movie clubs and so on.
Once you have a group together, you can start organizing other events which benefit the community and bring people together. If you can get access to a building from time to time, even better. You can use this for meetings, fund-raising events, classes, workshops and many more things. Share your skills. If you’re a keen woodworker, start teaching people what you know. You don’t need to charge for it, although any contributions can go to building use and purchase of equipment – take a look at Straight Kerfs for some good ideas. And of course, it’s not just woodworking you can do. Needlework, outdoormanship, pottery, gardening… there are so many possibilities.
Such groups are great at pulling together when the community needs it. These are the kinds of groups that will act together when flood defenses need to be built, trash needs to be cleared from streets and parks, sick people need caring for or when disaster strikes a family, such as a house fire or similar. These people will look out for each other and go out of their way to help each other. That is what it really means to be part of a community. If you can help to create it, you and those who join it will be much better off for it.