I truly believe that few people understand the importance of building community the way that I do. Being legally blind, not being able to drive, and living in a rural setting all contribute to some degree of isolation for me. This doesn’t mean, however, that I’m willing to accept the fact that my life is guaranteed to be an almost-solo journey. If I can build community, you can too!
By our very nature, we humans are social creatures. While some of us might think that we can do it all, there are very few of us who’re that self-sufficient and that self-reliant. Humans aren’t meant to stay isolated in some cave in the mountains. We’ve always used social groups to hunt for and gather food, to protect one another, and to care for our children. For this reason, most of us have an innate need for some form of social contact.
My husband and I argue all the time. He’s always wanting nothing more than to come home and stay home, and I’m always craving some sort of contact with humans other than my children and my spouse. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family, and despite the fact that I’m an introverted person, I still cherish those small bits of human contact that I get by going grocery shopping or attending Mass each week. Those contacts, as insignificant as they might seem, go a long way toward improving my mental health and my outlook in general.
I am blessed. Most folks think that technology dehumanizes, but in my case, it helps me to be more human. Without technology, I wouldn’t feel a sense of community with my blog readers, I wouldn’t interact with really interesting folks on online forums, I wouldn’t be able to chat with my best friend on the phone each day, and it wouldn’t be easy for me to find out about events that are taking place around me. I also wouldn’t be able to indulge my learning “habit”. I can read Braille, but without technology, I’d be limited to a small fraction of the media that’s produced today. That can be quite isolating as well.
Despite the challenges I face, I’ve made great strides in the area of community-building. I’m connecting with folks, both in real life and on the Internet, who share the same interests that I do. I know that I can count on these folks in tough times, and they know that they can count on me.
Perhaps I understand better than most how dependent our lives truly are on social interaction and community-building. With my disability, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that there are things that I simply can’t do for myself. Yes, I’m independent, but that doesn’t mean I can just get into my husband’s car and drive to the next city when I want to attend a meeting or a social function. All the independent attitude in the world can’t compensate for some limitations, and I think that if more people understood that in their own lives, they’d be a lot happier. They’d also fear safer, more secure, and less anxious.
Why do we prepare? We prepare because we want to thrive regardless of the situation. All the beans, bullets, and Band-Aids in the world can’t compensate for the short-comings one faces because of a lack of community though. Eventually, your resources will run out, and unless you’ve discovered the key to human cloning, you can’t be in more than one place at the same time. Building community now, when you’re safe and secure means that it’ll be much easier to maintain that safety and security if times get tough.
To me, community-building is like growing a garden. I’ve never grown a garden in the ground before. That’s why I’ll start a garden next spring so that when I mess up, when I fail to secure this amazing bounty of food, I won’t be risking my life. Building community works much the same way. When times are relatively easy, find out who you can count on. Find out who’ll help you when need it. Teach people that they can count on you when THEY need it so that if times get tough and your life depends on the human connections you’ve made, you’re taking many fewer risks.
If you thinking that community-building is hard, start simple. Put yourself in situations where you’re likely to meet folks who share your interests. Take the time to talk with folks; be observant. You never know where you might make connections. For example, twice now, my husband’s company has sponsored a picnic at a local park. This recreational area happens to have a rifle range. The first year we attended, I was stunned by the number of folks who had an interest in guns and shooting. We wouldn’t have necessarily known that from my husband’s work interactions alone. At the park though, there was a great chance to see who all seemed to share our interest.
As a mother, I find it easy to start conversations based on that commonality alone. If you’re a father, reach out to other fathers. If you’re a mother, reach out to other mothers. If you’re a fisherman, reach out to other fisherman. If you’re a dog lover . . . You get the idea. By reaching out to folks based on obvious groupings, you’ll have an easier time making connections with folks who’re more like you than not. Making those connections now, when your life and safety don’t rely on them, is a crucial part of the journey to freedom and liberty. Yes, depending on other folks can actually bring you closer to your own personal freedom than you’d ever get going it alone.