Merriam-Webster defines community as “a group of people who live in the same area (such as a city — Craig, town or neighborhood) who have the same interests, religion, race, a unified body of individuals all working for a common goal selected by the participants as to how they will live to the benefit of all. This requires the embodiment of “incorporation,” a legal definition of an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location linked by common policy. There is joint ownership or participation by all members living within the structured boundary all agreeing to a set of social and political norms that is fair to all, that builds good will and better relationships and will be beneficial to all concerned — a quality of life. Relationship seems to be the big definer.
Community is about building relationships, relationships that are generative in nature which results in the bettering of the self in order to better serve others. We need one another in order to survive and thrive. In order for this to come about requires that males, females and children become deeply committed to something bigger than themselves. When this takes place, the output is far greater than the sum of the total of the individuals involved. There’s something about working together in positive relationships that stimulates us to produce at a much higher capacity. Unfortunately, a focus on “self-development,” or “what’s in it for me” has driven society, and all its institutions, to become infantilized into a quick-fix, self-improvement industry — materialism as the driving force. It’s become as Walt Whitman called “The Great American Experiment of Me.” This mentality is more about self-development than about self-development of the group or collective as a whole.
For a community to be healthy requires a close relationship with someone or something. Jesus calls us into community which transforms into a deep relationship with the Father. Jesus says that the world will know that we are his disciples by the love we have for one another (John 13:35). We all are children of God, the source of all being. Jesus prays that his people would be one as he is one with the Father (John 17:21). This also is known in biology as symbiosis, a close and usually obligatory association to two organisms of different species, races and culture that live together, often to their mutual benefit. God calls us into relationship with Him, a companionship to live together to the benefit of all.
The most common problem in building community is the lack of commitment. Many people do not want to commit because something better may come up, or thinking, "I’ll let others do the work and I’ll later enjoy the fruits of their efforts." This commitment must be strong enough to weather some difficult storms. If this takes place, the outcome will be a robust community, which provides a wealth of blessings, such as having a gathering place for all generations to have companionship, encouragement, identity, health and joy. The irony is that most people are looking for community, but they never stay long enough to truly experience it. Far too often, people leave or drop out of a movement when they should stay most. Only through perseverance will people truly experience the greatness of community. Growth of the individual and the group only takes place in community; we support one another all the way. Maturity takes place in community because it is within community that there is encouragement and accountability. No one is strong enough to go it alone. We need each other!
F. Neil Folks, Law Enforcement Chaplain, 970-326-8726, firstname.lastname@example.org.