Returning to the Power, Solace and Resilience of Community

how to build community, building resilient communities, the new pursuit“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.  I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”  ~ George Bernard Shaw

There is a quiet but growing movement happening all over. Perhaps it’s the result of shaky economies or people rediscovering the simple(r) more rewarding joys that come with shedding unnecessary things in our lives.

Perhaps you’ve already discovered it — or are helping to lead it. Maybe this is your invitation to become a part of it. What’s old is now new (again).

It is called community.

We are all part of one in some way, shape or form. From the neighbors in our cities and towns to the people we work with day in and day out to those who we have come to know and appreciate via this amazing thing call the Internet.

Communities are living, breathing things; dynamic in shape and form and purpose; sparked and sustained by common aspirations, goals and in many cases, necessities.

Fueling Change and Success

The lifeblood of these communities? You and me.

It’s only when we become engaged in these living and breathing communities that they thrive. The great thing is that there is no shortage of ways you can do this. In my experience, there is always a need for the time, talents and know-how that you can bring to the table. Organizations big and small – from your local neighborhood association to the schools to your town/city government have doors that are wide open, just waiting for you to come in, hang your hat and get to work.

If you are taking steps to live deeply each day, you are likely finding new avenues of satisfaction and happiness. You’re focused on things that allow us to realize that innate peace and happiness that resides in each one of us. You’re beginning to share and practically apply what you’ve come to embrace.

Being part of creating (and sustaining) a vibrant and resilient community is a fantastic next step as we seek to live our lives in this new way. As time goes on, I believe we will see a return to the power and solace of community. Partly because of the practicality of keeping things close to home; partly out of necessity as the world comes face-to-face with the consequences of uncontrolled and unchecked consumption.

Getting On Board the Bandwagon

In my own neck of the woods (suburban New England), there has been a renaissance of sorts when it comes to community. Several non-profit organizations supporting the arts, land conservation and local business development have cropped up over the past few years and in their work to further their respective missions have helped create new opportunities for the community to come together, get to know each other and work to make things better. Farmers markets, “cow flops”, harvest days, film series, community music, art and theater… the list goes on.

If you have children, the ways to get involved are even easier. From schools to sports to other organizations that help build character and have fun, there are more ways than you can shake a stick at to help make a difference.

Even at the local government level, there is always a need for the talents of others. Volunteer boards and commissions focused on everything from recycling to business development to resource planning are waiting for you to come knocking.

Go Ahead, Get Engaged

The number one tip for getting engaged in creating and driving vibrant communities: Tap into an opportunity that leverages what makes you you.

Do you like to organize things? Have a knack for leading people and projects? Do you exercise creative flair in all that you do? Can you mesmerize kids like the Pied Piper? Or woo would-be donors to invest in a vision? Maybe you’re a Jack-of-All-Trades that is willing to roll up your sleeves for anything that is thrown at you.

Someone, somewhere has a need for you, your talents and your time. Your community needs you to help breathe new life into it. To help it grow and thrive in the face of all that challenges it. Here are some things to help you:

Spark Your Spirit
Ignite Your Action

Here are resources to connect you with opportunities that may be lurking right around the corner:

Changing ourselves is the first step. From there, it is up to each of us to hit the streets and put our words into action. Together, we can make a difference.

Do you have an idea for making our communities more resilient? Looking for some feedback? Feel free to leave and comment and share with other readers. You never know what kind of connection you could make!

Be well,

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[image: TangYauHoong]

13 Responses to “Returning to the Power, Solace and Resilience of Community”
  1. Vanessa says:

    Great post! I just wrote about the Transition movement that works towards building community resilience. I agree that community is becoming a more common idea in peoples minds. Instead of thinking it’s us against the world, we’re realizing that with the strength of community there are no boundaries to what we can do. We’re creating a world where we can benefit ourselves AND those around us. And from my experience seeing intentional communities around the US, I can honestly say that we NEED this. The results of community are so beautiful!

  2. Bill Gerlach says:

    Hey Vanessa // So good to hear from you. I just read your post — awesome. I’ve been following the whole Transition Town movement for a few years now and wrote about it on my old blog. Amazing. Spent some time with the Transition Handbook over the summer courtesy of our library.

    Have you/are you considering trying to organize one where you are at now? For me, it’s been off and on for a while. In my town, we have a lot of great groups working on little pieces of the puzzle, but nothing to thread it all together. It would be a huge commitment and based on previous experience I don’t know if I could get enough people to join in. That is the sad part for me — though it could be different the next time around.

    I have referenced this NY Times article a bunch of times. It’s a great look at a Transition Town movement in action.

    BTW — LOVE the new design treatment at Green and Free. I need to catch up on what you’ve been up to!

  3. Raam Dev says:

    The beautiful thing about the Internet is that it allows us to create and foster communities with very little effort, however I think it’s the real-world physical piece that’s missing. The virtual communities need to somehow spill over and turn into real-world action.

    I’m really not sure how we can make that happen, but I’m open to hearing ideas! The only thing that comes to mind is to use the Internet for more of what it’s already being used for: Collaboration, communication, and spreading ideas/motivation/inspiration/knowledge.

    But there still feels like there’s a missing piece, something that creates a hard connection from the virtual to the real.

    I guess I feel like there’s this huge potential just waiting to used for a good purpose. The Internet is used heavily for consumerism, entertainment, communication, information, and almost everything else. Doctors even use it to perform operations from other parts of the planet.

    So how can we use it to directly change the course of history and push the world in a direction that we all wish to see? What’s the most effective way to use the community building aspects of the Internet in a way that will have, for example, a direct positive impact on the 27,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases?

  4. Vanessa says:

    Aw thanks, I’m glad you like the design. :)

    I’m from Central Florida and as you probably read in my post, the people of Orlando have just started talking and gathering around the Transition idea and I went to a few meetings. I was actually amazed because, like you said, I didn’t think many people would be interested. I’m so happy to see that they’re going for it!

    Right now I’m staying in Durham, North Carolina for a few months and I decided to check out whether they’ve started a group because the city is very environmentally conscious — or at least seems to be. Durham is part of the ‘Triangle’: Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh and I found that Chapel Hill is the only one that has “officially” initiated it. But I think there may be interest here…it’s just a matter of finding the people! If anything I’d love to provide the chance for people to gather and talk it out to see if any long term folks would want to pilot the idea.

  5. Bill Gerlach says:

    Awesome thoughts, Raam.

    I think taking the step to real-world action is easier than we make it out to be. I’ll use myself as an example (not to toot my own horn, but to illustrate how easy I think it is to get yourself on the front lines of change — right in your backyard):

    Five years ago, we moved back to the town where my wife and I grew up. I wanted to get involved so I looked on our town website and saw they were looking for volunteers on the Recycling Committee. I reached out, had a quick “interview” and before I knew it I was chairing the committee. We created some public awareness campaigns (real grassroots stuff) and hit the streets. We also helped the town measure recycling rates at the time to help figure out where to improve performance.

    Or when signing up our oldest for Little League (baseball) a few years back the League expressed a need for coaches. I signed up. Three years later, I’m still doing it (now for two kids). Or last year, I asked the Cub Scout Pack that my oldest belongs to if they needed help and they nearly fell over. Now, we’re leading a food drive to help local food pantries. (If you have kids, there are TONS of things you can start doing right now to help shape them and their worlds. I’m optimistic that some way, some how I can help make a difference for a kid that would pay its dividends at some point in the future.)

    Or all the stuff I’m doing at work to make our business more sustainable. A few of us just started that from scratch because we saw and need and opportunity.

    Yes, leveraging technology can absolutely help you connect and collaborate for things both in your backyard and half way around the world. But don’t look past the opportunities that can be right outside your door and accessible simply by having an old fashioned face-to-face conversation. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to do that — especially in a society so heck-bent on virtual interactions — but once you do it a few times, you’re In Like Flynn.

    On that note, we have to figure out a way for you and I to have one of those… ;)

  6. Bill Gerlach says:

    Vanessa // Chapel Hill is where UNC is, right? I would imagine you have quite the receptive crowd within that community to kick-start a Transition Town initiative. Be sure to start following Transition US on Twitter (if you haven’t already) to stay in the loop on stuff.

  7. Katie says:

    Bill, these are beautiful words, “Communities are living, breathing things; dynamic in shape and form and purpose; sparked and sustained by common aspirations, goals and in many cases, necessities.” Our virtual and physical communities are such amazing places for personal and communal growth. You are an inspiration.

  8. Bill Gerlach says:

    Thanks so much, Katie. Because communities are living and breathing, you have to “feed” them. And that’s where you and I and everyone else comes in. It’s not all about money. Bite-sized chunks of our time, talents, energies and willingness to pitch in wherever needed goes a long way towards creating that which we desire. Be well!

  9. Beautiful post Bill. There was a time in my life when I thought to experience true community required living in an intentional community, and I did that for 36 years,

    But now I find community can be enjoyed and tasted and shared and created in any moment wherever I am. All it takes is being open to see the true beauty in the people around me, people I think I know, people I have never met in person and never will…

    There’s a dance of community going on in any moment that includes everything and everyone and isn’t it a true joy to be awakening to it more and more every day? Love and peace be with you Bill.

  10. Bill Gerlach says:

    Thanks, Christopher. Intentional vs. Unintentional. Virtual vs. Face-to-Face. Big vs. Small. So many types of communities are out there. I’m not sure if one is better than the other, but I completely agree with you when you say, “community can be enjoyed and tasted and shared and created in any moment wherever I am. All it takes is being open to see the true beauty in the people around me”.

    Just last night, our family attended a Halloween part sponsored by our kids’ elementary school. It was so good to see th slice of the town come together and connect. People — many of whom were “strangers” — were connecting and chatting. In this instance, the common thread of parenthood helped weave the fabric of community together.

    No matter the reason, there are common threads weaving us into the fabric of community all the time — in every moment as you point out. It’s beautiful. Community is coming back! Be well!

  11. Ali Dark says:

    Heya Bill.

    I’m going to be straight up and say that one of the reasons I work and to some extent live on the net is that I fear community. It’s probably something I share with few others who grew up embracing the internet – but also particular to me because of my life personality experiences that make me wary of a lot of social interaction.

    I’d really love to wake up tomorrow with the courage to just make things happen regardless of my hangups- and make a difference in the world.

    I also have a problem in that many things that matter and count are easy to see as a waste of time in the face of larger issues that I feel compelled to put my time into – issues that are hard to see as ‘community’ such as vegan outreach.

    One day I’ll be over both my inferiority and superiority complexes :)

    Am I making any sense tonight?

  12. Bill Gerlach says:

    Hey Ali,

    You’re making total sense. No worries. The world is a big enough place with enough things to work on that each of us can find that right kind of community fit that allows us to do our thing. Often, I feel the same way as you — so many BIGGER and DEEPER things that could take precedent. Sometimes I focus on those; sometimes I focus on the stuff closer to home as a way of helping myself and others get to the bigger stuff.

    Keep doing your thing. I think the community — virtual or otherwise — will come quite naturally.

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