Community is word that gets thrown around a lot. It can be used to describe a place or a group of people. For me, tho, community is a feeling. It is a value. And it is probably bigger than you’ve imagined it to be.
First, a definition:
Community - Connection to our work, our environment, and the people around us through a sense of belonging and a shared purpose.
Belonging and shared purposed. Those are the foundation for me. Those are the attributes that describe a community. That delineate one from another. That make it unique. And give it meaning.
When applied broadly you can divide the whole planet into two sets of communities. The first, locational: Our World. The shared experience of being on this Earth, in this Country, or in your Neighborhood. The second, relational: Your Tribe. The people that make your life worth living.
Within those groups, it is up to you to decide what it means to belong and what purpose you share.
At the base level, it’s easy, we all belong to the category of Earth simply because we are here. Because we were born. Belonging is easily defined. What, tho, is our shared purpose? If I’m answering: To care for and protect the Earth we’ve been given. To make sure those who come after us have more opportunity and longevity than those who came before.
At the country level, that’s also easy to define. We (in the US) have founding documents that tell us the shared purpose of our community: To promote the general welfare. Even at this still-foundational level, our membership rests on our work to promote wellness, welfare, and wellbeing. That’s a pretty high bar for our relationships to 300,000,000 strangers. And it colors our connection to everyone else, at every other level. Because our shared purpose only grows as we climb toward the top.
So, what do you say?
How do you define belonging and shared purpose at the neighborhood level? For me, that is all about being willing to offer a hand. Supporting local businesses. Caring about local politics. Opening doors and smiling in the elevator. And keeping the music at a reasonable volume.
What about for your colleagues and clients, and the truth-tellers that make up your Profession? How does someone meet you there? Become a part of that community? Are there professional standards? Educational requirements? Mandatory levels of hustle and heart? What purpose do you all share?
Take some time on this one. How do you work with your mentors and mentees? What makes someone a collaborator, a co-workers, and an ideal customer? These all make up the first level of Your Tribe. And your definitions of belonging and shared purpose, here, set the tone for the communities that reside higher still.
Now think about your Support System. Who had the privilege of seeing you when you just started out? Who corrected your errors and forgave your mistakes? Who gave you critical feedback and heart-felt recommendations? How selective are you about who gets into this group? And how do you share in the purpose of propping each other up?
Finally, what does it mean to belong to your Core community? What is the shared purpose up at the tippy top? Who will have the privilege of sipping coffee with you on Saturday morning discussing your hopes and dreams? Who has a place of prominence when you whiteboard out your shared future? And how do you all contribute to fulfilling your purpose?
It’s a lot to think about. And probably too much for one day.
The critical key is that all of our communities rest on a single foundation. Every community is drawn from a single pool of places and populations. And community membership can change in an instant. People who once were only fellow-citizens or Earth’s inhabitants can—in a heartbeat—skyrocket to the top. And people who once were important and consistently present—through a move or a graduation or a falling-out—can trickle back down toward the bottom.
I try to keep that fact in mind when I am considering my own communities.
Maybe you are not my best friend, yet, but you could be. I’ll treat you with the respect that status deserves.
Maybe you are here, now, close, but you might not always be. I will love you with a force that recognizes our time together could be fleeting. I will listen with the intensity needed to learn everything I can from you, while I can.
I will fulfill my part of our purpose while it’s still shared. And I won’t take for granted this feeling of belonging.
Because that’s what community means to me.
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