What does community mean to you?
We live in an age where the pace of change is increasing at a rapid rate, with the meaning of the word ‘community’ evolving just as fast. Therefor it is more important than ever, that, we are able to define what community’ means to us and our place in it. You could be forgiven for thinking it means how many ‘followers’, ‘friends’ and ‘likes’ on social media we have. We have all seen the boom in articles about digital mindfulness and I am not going to explore the merits and drawbacks of becoming digitally connected. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that no matter how many digital connections we make, it can never replace face to face interactions as a way of connecting with the community as we become less able to feel empathy for others.
I recently came across a definition that I felt encompassed the different aspects of what a community should be. It is that a community has
A shared purpose and set of values; the people who live in it are economically entwined to some degree; there is a definition for membership in the community and a process for becoming a member.
So how do we find membership in our community?
One of the best ways to connect with our community is by building relationships with those around us. We can do this through active listening. People like to know they are being heard and understood. Some techniques for active listening are to listen without refuting or judging, with an open mind, overcome distractions during conversation, such as mobile phones, and attempt to find a connection or personal interest in whatever the person you’re engaging with is saying. All these techniques can help us build on our relationships with the people around us. So how can we put these skills into practice?
I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."
- Albert Schweitzer
There are plenty of individuals and organisations that would love to take you on and plenty of activities that you can volunteer to do. Some of the most needed roles and common opportunities are in admin, IT, finance, school governance, advice and information governance, prison visits, event organising, marketing and fundraising, conservation tasks and DIY, as well as teaching and classroom support with reading to name a few. Think of something you would really like to do, or a cause that you feel strongly about. For me, it is adult education, and I help run an adult literacy class one evening a week, which enables me to feel connected with my local community, outside of my day job.
In addition to helping you develop your social skills, volunteering allows you to expand your network and build a wider support group Why not start slowly and see where it leads?
Join a club
There is evidence to show that joining an activity or leisure club greatly enhances our physical and mental health. It creates opportunities to regularly connect with others and do something you enjoy. Have a think about what you might like to do and go along to see what it’s like. Participation is often as much or as little as you like and is a great way to meet like-minded people.
There are numerous opportunities to connect to our communities and all of them await you. Why not start to build those connections and see where they lead…