What Is Community?

By MJ Ali

July is Community Month here at Co-Op Web, and my question to everyone (including myself) is:

What is community to you?

For me, community means interconnectedness and support.

As a child, community meant neighbors had our backs, and we had theirs. We belonged to groups that extended beyond their subject matter, forming lasting friendships and a solid support network, and in that way, those groups became communities.

When I was in middle school and a family with the same ethnicity moved to town, my dad was so excited, enthusiastically encouraging me to make friends with all of them, and in that way we became our own micro-community, supporting each other and finding comfort and connectedness in that familiarity.

In high school, what started as an activity-centered group sometimes grew into a community, forming bonds outside of the group’s activity and structure.

As an adult, I belonged to several groups organized around profession, ethnicity, gender, interest, ideology and causes. Again, some of these groups evolved into their own supportive communities.

Online communities connect more people in more ways than any other venue. Sometimes, when you start participating in a group, you discover a community. You can find support, encouragement, intellectual stimulation, collaborations, inspiration, new businesses to visit and tips and tricks for whatever you need tips and tricks for. Without a doubt, it’s all about community. I think of crowdfunding as a form of “got your back” community, and one of many ways in which lives are changed for the better.

When I worked in a small business in a small strip mall here in town, all of the business owners and employees became a community, not just because of proximity, but because we were mutually and actively supportive of each other. When our neighbor’s internet went down, halting sales, we were over there in a heartbeat helping them out. When one of our neighbors was having a special, we’d post it on social media. Why? Because we liked and supported those businesses, and more traffic is always good traffic. The whole shopping center benefits.

We had each others’ backs because we were a community.

My sister and I both had dentist appointments at the same dentist’s office on the same day. Weird, right? Mine started twenty minutes after hers. Mine went wayyyy longer than I thought it would, and my sister, who couldn’t reach me by text (phone was off) started to freak out. She called one of my other sisters, also in town. Now they were both worried.

My sister called the dentist’s office but couldn’t reach anybody. More panic.

I had no idea any of this was happening, and I was surprised to find out how worried my sisters were. Then one of them said, “It’s better to have people worried than for someone to walk by your house days later and wonder why it smells funny.”

Point taken. And that’s my new macro definition of community. It doesn’t matter if they’re blood or not, neighbors or not, online or not, as long as there are people who will be looking for you way before your house smells funny.

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