Community is something I’ve been interested in for a long time. I was a joiner throughout my life. By the time I got to college, I’d decided I wanted to study communities. I became a sociology major—which was close, being the study of people in groups. While I went on to get a Masters Degree in a different area of study, sociology and community interest me even now.
Community is something that’s been on my mind often this final week of September 2018. The biggest community I consider myself to be a part of—women–is in distress. I feel that distress keenly, and have felt it in smaller and larger waves many times since the fall of 2016. But still, we all remain. That is what community is about in my mind.
Community has a broad definition in sociology. It can be as simple as a group of people who interact—like friends or family members. Community can be defined by borders, as with a neighborhood, town, state, or nation. Community can be more than that though. It can be a group of people who share beliefs, values, characteristics, or behaviors. More interesting about communities is how they persist.
Community is a construct—it isn’t something we can touch or sometimes quantify. It’s bigger than the people in it. Members can come and go, without wiping out the community itself. Its tenets can alter over time, if its members want them to. People can be a part of it remotely, intending to go back to it, but sometimes not making it back. Still, the community remains.
Most interesting, in my opinion, is why we need them.
We need community to feel connection to others who think and feel as we do. We may be very different from other members of the community, but the common ground shared keeps the people in it together. Community lets us have an emotional home where we can find advice and help from the others in it to nurture us and help us work through difficult times.
What a fascinating concept—that we can find comfort in people we might not even know. That there is unity in shared belief that can keep us going. That’s always signified to me that everyone truly is connected. No matter the person, there is likely some trait you share with them. Doesn’t that comfort you?
I often have mixed feelings about social media—but one thing is undeniable about it. It can make that community we seek a larger, more vibrant part of our lives. This week I’ve seen women online working to bolster others, to give them hope to not give in to the threat it feels the future may hold. And it gives us a way to find other communities and community members we might not have known were there. This idea is most evident when other people—ones we think are not from our communities—end up showing their support to us. And by that we are strengthened further.
Spiritual author Marianne Williamson is credited with this quote: “People crave comfort, people crave connection, people crave community.” Community can get us through tricky times. It is a glue to keep us bound and stronger in our collective state. Even an introvert can take comfort knowing other introverts are at home reading silently when they are, learning new ideas to use in working their way through this life. Even rock stars can take comfort in knowing that others are hearing their words and feeling their music and finding shared strength in them.
Keep that community craving, friends. It will get us all through anything we encounter.