I’ve discovered I read some favourite authors (Maeve Binchey, Marcia Willet, Katie Fforde ) because of the dream of community that’s often a part of the story. Learning how a character moves from outsider, dispossessed of her old identity through circumstance or choice, and forms a new community, is a tale that never grows old. The community is the context for all the action. I feel silly even mentioning it in a way. Goodness it’s always there, that tension between the individual and the community, the dilemma of being in or out, the challenge of being accepted or winning membership.
How could I have missed this theme?
North American culture emphasizes the individual and individual relationships. The novels often have an element of romance. Family stories are sagas, or comedies, or tragedies with an individual at the centre. Shifting my focus to the community, I see the stories differently; learn new things.
In Vancouver, where I live, recent research revealed that many people in the city feel lonely and disconnected, and yearn for a greater sense of community. We have many immigrants who are far from family, are from across the world or across the country, drawn to the city from another way of life; sometimes people are disconnected from their family for other reasons.
On Monday and Tuesday night this week PBS broadcast Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The stories from the film are different from the tales told in women’s fiction or Vancouver newspaper articles on urban angst, yet they are about dreams shared by the characters in the books and Vancouverites: a woman’s desire for a better life for herself and her children, freedom from emotional and physical abuse, access to education, and a way to earn a living with dignity that will allow her to build a better life and a safe place to belong. The stories of these women are also about the dream of community. The women who take action in the film are able to build community.
Our idea of community, and how to build and maintain a community comes from our dream of it, our yearning for it, as much as it comes from experience.
In 2008 Peter Block wrote Community: The Structure of Belonging.
“Community offers the promise of belonging and calls for us to acknowledge our interdependence. To belong is to act as an investor, owner, and creator of this place. To be welcome, even if we are strangers. As if we came to this place and are affirmed for that choice.”
He emphasizes the need for us all to take up this work, to move from longing to acting, and offers information on building local context and operating guidelines. One of the powerful questions he asks is
“What declaration of possibility can you make that has the power to transform the community and inspire you?
Join the conversation: Do you dream of community? How would you answer Peter Block’s question? What are the characteristics of the community you long for? Share a description of community that inspires you.