What is “community” and why should I care?

These days I’ve been musing about the nature of something that affects everyone who’s currently alive in the world — community.  As a North American woman in her mid-twenties who’s lived in suburbia her whole life, this has come to mean something specific.  As in politely minding my own business and looking the other way when a neighbor or acquaintance or friend is obviously in need.  I’ve been so used to communing solely that even when others go out of their way to include me in their circle of generosity (for instance, this morning a neighbor shoveled my sidewalk as well as a few others’ on the block — I waved and sped away without so much as a “thanks, how’s life been treating you lately?”), it feels a bit intrusive.

Maybe the word itself has been overused and tainted.  I guess that’s not really the point.  I mean, anyone who went to high school with me will remember the class everyone had to take called “Building Community.”  We all dreaded it and suffered through it together, counting the minutes until we could gun it up to the cafeteria for taco salad or turkey dinner.  But looking back, I’m not even sure what we talked about.  The curriculum was probably well-intentioned, but I doubt many of us really took it to heart and literally built community with the world next door.

Now, years later, I ponder as a former “community organizer” sits in the highest elected office in the land and makes decisions that will affect all of our communities.  I hope that responsibility isn’t taken lightly.

As a librarian who hopes to make some kind of difference in the world, be it in the workplace or abroad, I try to see the customer service aspect as it should be and couple it with something beyond helping people find books — but helping them find a community worth investing in and being a part of it actively.  Another bucket list item to accomplish someday (stuff to do before I kick the bucket — thanks, Em).

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Filed under community, cynicism, thinking out loud

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