“A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common”
We have long outstripped the traditional definition of the word “community”
I come from a small town, Olney, MD., or at least it once was when I was astripling. Today, I suppose it’s still called a community but it no longer has the feel, the look, or the attributes that I consider worthy of the term.
Back when, it had a DGS (District Grocery Store), run by Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins.
Across the street there was Armstrong Feed and Grain, also housing the post office so that while you waited in line to get your stamps and mail your packages you were infused with the heady blend of barrels of molasses oats for the horses, wood chips for the small farm creatures and the occasional bale of fresh hay.
Corner number three was the tinsmith shop and…..
Across from that, the throbbing heart of our world was Doc Berlin’s drug store. Prescriptions, most legal, some not, penny candy (heaven), toys, racks of the latest comics that we kids waited for each month and the true heartbeat of the town, the counter deli.
Everyone got everything they needed on one of these four corners. Add Fletcher’s Amoco and Johns’ Esso along with Finneyfrock’s blacksmithery and the town was complete.
The sense of place was palpable.
The sense of people and their associated personhood was pervasive.
Our parents all had charge accounts at Doc Berlin’s and the DGS. We could ride our horses the 3 miles into town and grab milk and bread for our mothers, get the butchered meat cuts from the freezer for the week, and grab a Drumstick (that delicious concoction of waffle cone, ice cream and a dusting of peanuts) for our efforts.
They knew who to send the bill to, nothing to sign, no extra Coca Colas or mom would hear about it.
We knew to behave ourselves or someone, Mrs. Hawkins, Doc Berlin, or one of the other mothers out and about, would be sure to report on us and by the time we got home, the die would have been cast.
This outdated and historic form of community really doesn’t exist any longer and along with its demise, so too, the gathered sense of community responsibly that stitched us all together. There were consequences to our actions that were swiftly meted out, rigorously enforced, and universally feared by us all.
Today, “community”, in its new iterations, enwraps the globe and with it, a lessening of connection……to one another…..to a shared set of mores and morals…..to the concept of even “self” as it applies to the greater arena in which we all reside…..in short…..
To a Community at all.
We have ceded our souls to the gods of greed and the mantra of more.
Postings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are all instant snapshots of behavior, ideology, and an isolation that breeds within itself to produce more and more need to reach out.
But reach out for what?
I contend we are reaching out for our community(s); this amorphous concept but very real sense of belonging that has wound us all into gatherings of social constructs that have existed throughout the ages. From feudal villages to agrarian farming towns to industrial and post-industrial small cities we have been linked, for better or worse, to each other through our landscape and its inhabitants.
I have often spoken to my theory of “Geographic Resonance”. That illusive little spark we feel when we travel through some new place and it “feels” like home. I think there is a DNA component to us all on a great scale that is passed through the generations and which gives us this core of community.
When settlers came to new lands they alit in places that felt like home to them, the land spoke to their souls and they answered back. They formed New England, New York, New Brunswick…..a host of “news” that harkened back to their origins and on them, they built new communities, new bonds, new ties to each other and the earth beneath their feet.
But planes, trains and automobiles interceded.
As we mobilized, we became more nomadic, not less.
Jobs, adventures, whimsy, all consorted to drive us further from home and into a future we were busy creating without much of a nod to the past from which we sprung.
And now we add to this heady mix of choices…the internet.
Now we need not even leave home, either figuratively or literally, to seek out and attach ourselves to places so far flung as to stretch our limitless imaginations to a brittle and soon broken string of cobbled together concepts that we come to view as “ours”, ours in a vague sense of belonging…….a longing once more for a community.
And so we come full circle.
Where once we grew up with a structure and a community that gave us limits and boundaries and a base; we now reach adulthood by stretching our minds and our limits on-line with little to no supervision, either physical or moral, and in so doing, we lack the geographic and resonant characteristics of community that bound us together for so long.
We are adrift in a sea of souls, minute electronic images of people, all in search of their own place, their own community, their own belonging.
And yet, because of this, we are all alone.
I never felt alone in the world.
I fear many today do.
I believe they lack “community” and it is a lack that will inhabit their souls until they learn to look inward and reach outward.
Communicate with a real person.
Talk to a live human.
Walk along a town center or a country lane.
Become the impetus for your own rebirth.
Find your Community