Relationships. Shared experiences. Common goals. Support.
Community. I desire it. I covet it.
Like most people, I remember feeling on the outside when I was a kid. Not the kind of outside that comes from not having friends – I had plenty of friends. Kids are really good at identifying (and highlighting) differences between people. It’s actually part of the maturation process – differentiating yourself from others as you develop your own identity. The process can seem cruel at times, but I’m thankful for it.
I’m thankful for the chance to come to know who I am and what I need. I’m definitely a person who craves community.
Unfortunately, community isn’t simple. They aren’t simple, mainly because they are comprised of people – people with differing needs, agendas and ideas. Layer on top of that two things:
- Most communities form for fairly narrow purposes, and
- Most people are multifaceted with innumerable needs and interests.
This leaves me realizing that for me community is less of a tribe and more of a series of coinciding groups – often overlapping and frequently filling different needs. My communities are more like neighboring tribes with some overlapping and some unique citizens.
Now, how do you go about creating community? There is no real formula, but here is what has worked for me:
For most of us, our primary identity development happened in our teens and twenties. Sometimes this was a painful process, punctuated by differentiating ourselves from others. As introspective people in charge of our own lives, most of us continue to refine this identify for a lifetime – mainly tweaks through adulthood. These tweaks are important, as the process of developing community requires that once we know who we are and what we want, we seek others who can support us on our journey.
The more varied your interests, the wider you must cast your net.
Where do you cast your net? That really depends on what’s most important to you. Figure out which of your needs are well met already and locate the areas where you want more support. Prioritize your needs and inventory your moral compass – both will come in handy as you navigate the tribes you find.
Keep your eyes open.
Here comes the fun part – its like an adventure ride combined with a Where’s Waldo picture book. You have to keep your eyes open for other people who have the same needs as you. It’s not unlike dating – you figure out who interests you and then you have to make your move. This process is different for introverts and extroverts; different for folks who are shy and folks who like to woo others. The point is, you have to find the people who meet your needs and make friends.
After you find a few folks who met your needs – support them. Lift them up. Help them feel good about what makes them unique. People are attracted to positive and to people who make them feel good. Plus, the more you support people, the less room there is for your differences to derail a new community. After all, that is what we are seeking – folks who can lift us up, who share experiences with us, who have common experiences. Support each other on the journey.
There really isn’t a formula for building community. Just like there is no formula for why people seek community. I’ve found that as my interests expand, my life experiences increase and I explore untapped potential, the more I need to expand my community.
Check out other folks’ take on building communities on the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop.