Community – what does it mean to you? I’m not really sure what it means to me, but I’m going to find out. I’ve set it as my guiding word for 2018.
Why community? And why this year? Well, it seems like the natural progression of my slow living journey. My house is in order (as in order as it gets for someone who’s chronically messy) and, when it comes to stuff, a less-is-more perspective is entrenched. Life is under control, busyness and overwhelm are blips that occur from time-to-time, but I have strategies for getting through them without being thrown off course.
As a result, I’ve got time and bandwidth, to devote to new things. That’s part of the reason. I recently quit my part-time job to freelance . Those easy, everyday connections with others and to something larger, which come with a job, are now something I must intentionally cultivate. So, that’s part of the reason too.
But, there is also a more fundamental reason why I want to focus on community in 2018. I’ve written before about the perils of consumerism. Well, decluttering isn’t the antedote to consumerism. Minimalism alone isn’t the antedote to consumerism. That void, the one consumerism wants us to believe is best filled by stuff, needs to be filled by something.
In 2018, I’m backing a different horse. I want to take a bit of that beating-the-man-badassery I feel every time I make my own laundry power up a level. I know fulfillment isn’t found by swiping some plastic or climbing a ladder. Instead I’m aiming for more good old-fashioned human connections and a sense of purpose beyond myself.
It sounds so simple and obvious. But, in today’s world, where individualism reigns supreme, it’s a luxury and a privilege. It’s also a challenge, carving out something against society’s default settings. On the plus side, where I live, there are many community-minded types and plenty of opportunities to start or join things with like-minded people. On the minus side, as an introvert, who has never been much of a joiner (at least more than peripherally), I’m a bit daunted.
As I head into the New Year, some advice I was given years ago about making friends comes to mind: “The best place to find new friends is among people you already know”. In terms of community, I’m going to start by applying the same principle – rather than search out new things, at first I’ll try deepening my existing community connections and see where that takes me.
Postscript – an end of year update
So how did I get on? On paper, it doesn’t look much. Compared to this time last year, I’m no longer heavily involved in the charity craft group that I co-ordinated for three years. I was asked to join the board of a local not-for-profit, but we just wound ourselves up! And I haven’t joined anything else new.
But, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t successful. My guiding word influenced many of everyday decisions. Little things I did with an eye to community-building include:
- inviting 22 kids to my son’s birthday party (sounds mad, but I managed to enjoy it)
- joining a bike library, rather than buying a bike for my son to learn on
- going to a not-for-profit, self-organising knitting retreat
- re-scheduling a meeting so I could attend Christmas carols at school.
School was the obvious place to focus and I worked on building relationships around school. I made time to be there at drop-off and pick-up time, not to rush, to say hi and make time to chat to parents, teachers and kids. Slowy, it paid off.
Have you set a guiding word or intention for the year? I’d love to hear what you’ve chosen and why.