Saturday, August 6, 2011

Becoming a Community Insider

Last night, I realized something important about me.  Where ever I am (whether I'm just visiting or permanently living there), I need to feel connected to that community.  I seek out local establishments, local residents, and attempt to learn what it's like on the inside.  Perhaps call it an immersion experience! It wasn't until last night that I began to understand why.

Growing up, I was not connected at all to my community nor did I understand its significance.  In fact, I hardly paid attention to local, national,or international news, remaining in a little protected bubble.  Many people might say that is good for kids and I definitely agree to a certain extent.  I agree that children (nor us as adults really!) should not be exposed to violence. But I believe there are limitations of protection that hinder their chance at growing connecting to their "real" community that has some unfortunate circumstances.

For example, people who are homeless or poor in their community.  I personally believe that allowing our children to experience interactions and relationships with those experiencing hardship is beneficial to our children, to the disadvantaged person, and even to the community.  How many of us are honestly intimidated by the person asking for money on the sidewalk and act as though they are invisible?  I want my children to know these are people, just like us in many ways, people deserving respect and need love too.  They too are part of our community and because we are more advantaged, we need to help those currently living with a disadvantage as often as we can.  More about this another time though....I want to come back to my original topic of community living.

It wasn't until I volunteered a year of my life with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps where our life was completely immersed in the community that I experienced what it was like to be a part of a real community.  I now know belonging to a community is a spiritual experience that feeds our soul in ways unimaginable.  It provides a sense of connectedness to those around us, a sense of belonging which is a biological need.  I also feel more grounded to know local people that I can trust and to know what events are going on around me.  Each community is authentic in its own way.

In some ways, this goes coincides with the current local movement.  The government is advocating this movement with the economy as it's main angle. I obviously believe supporting locally goes much deeper than that.  In some ways, I believe I'm connected more to the "slow food" movement.  It's about learning about local farms, what's in season, and developing a connection with nature. I yearn for the fresh organic produce from my local farmer stand as those it is going out for ice cream. It sounds ridiculous to say it that way, especially since I could never imagine as a child ever thinking this as an adult!

Well, we just moved recently and at first it was difficult, being an outsider of this community.  It was a bit lonely.  But it has also been really exciting as though I'm on a treasure hunt.  And I can feel my sense of grounding starting to take root as relationships are forming.

How about you?  Where's your community and do you feel connected to it?  Where have you "rooted" yourself in it and feel that spiritual sense of belonging?

If you don't feel connected, why?  Where would you like to become closer to your community?

I would love to hear about "your" community!

Peace and love,


Jen Starks, Owner 574.275.1235