In last’s weeks post, I wrote about the role of curiosity. Join me on my journey in this week’s post to see where curiosity led me as I explored the role and meaning of community. Learn what I discovered.
I grew up living in a village of 13,000 people and have had the good fortune to return to village life and experience it again, as if for the first time.
Community has been something elusive to me–both in concept and experience. We use words like network, tribe, community, and friends interchangeably. But what is it we’re really saying? I’ve turned this over and over in my mind.
It wasn’t until I returned to live in a village of 10,000 people that the fog lifted. I found what had been eluding me and what I longed for but didn’t know it until I experienced it.
If you are old enough and grew up in the US, you’ll remember TV shows like Petticoat Junction with Uncle Jo, Bobbi Jo, Betty Jo and Billy Jo, Green Acres, and Andy of Mayberry. These shows did their best to depict life in a village or small town with their quirky characters, ongoing relationships, the apparent intrusive nature of neighbors and shopkeepers and the gossip that goes on in daily village life. We laughed, we cried and we squirmed.
As I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of my village. My bags were packed for university two years in advance of my departure. I never felt like I fit in and I couldn’t wait to find my peeps. I was anxious to find my tribe although I didn’t have a way to name it at that time.
San Francisco was my post university destination and there, I could remain anonymous. No one was aware of my comings and goings. People didn’t drop in on one another either–I learned that very quickly. With this new life came a sense of isolation, although I didn’t understand it at the time. Why was I surrounded by friends yet felt alone?
In his book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us Seth Godin describes a Tribe as “… a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, connected to an idea… A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate… One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people.”
Notice this description is distinct from Tribe as it relates to Native American or Indigenous People’s which would be more relevant to how I think about and define community. I would amend that last sentence of Godin’s to include community, in terms of one of our “most power survival mechanisms.”
How is a tribe distinct from a community?
What I managed to create over the years, I now understand is my tribe and my tribe also intersects with my community. Since the explosion of social media my tribe extends globally. Before this, my tribe mostly extended to people I met along the way through work, professional affiliations, interest groups and those friendships that survived from my past based on some common interests, values, and/or shared experiences.
Tribe is not dependent upon geography.
What is community then? Community exists in a place.
Community is made up of the people we affiliate with regularly and most often, in person. People in a community rely upon one another. While the downside is that people in community are aware of our daily goings on, the upside is that we look out for one another.
My community knows when I am feeling unwell, when I am going out-of-town, when I am alone. They call and ask whether I need help moving, a ride to the airport, food or medicines because I am sick. They care.
My community consists of friends, neighbors, shopkeepers, landlords. For example, my former landlord helped me move into my new house. That is community.
Each member of my community is quirky (including me) and made up of people who I probably wouldn’t know otherwise. I have learned to care less about the gossip and that people know about my comings and goings, because more importantly, we care about and for one another.
In some ways, I was like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz who regained consciousness in her home back in Kansas. I didn’t recognize that I had community all along. Nor did I realize the essence of it and how to fully show up in and for my community.
I no longer fear community, I treasure it. This is what I have rediscovered. This is precious. I had it in me all along … if only I knew that I just had to click my heels.
Have you found your tribe?
Have you created your community?
I’d love to engage with you around your experience of community and tribe. Please comment.