Connectedness and Community

By Jonathan FrazierSeptember 9, 2014

What does the word community mean?
Where do you find it?
Where does it find you? 

At times it may look like a collection of stories, a safe place to know and be known, or an opportunity to embrace vulnerability without fear of rejection or shame. It can be all these things and also so many more. Ask 100 people to define community and you’ll get 100 different answers. And yet, for all its individuality, one constant remains: people. Perhaps that is why community gets messy at times, because there’s no blueprint; it’s full of people still working through the ups and downs in this life. It’s mysterious, it’s surprising, and it’s our foundation of hope, because people need other people. 

We’ve been spending a lot of time lately asking people why no one else can play their part. Today, we wanted to focus on what happens when people embrace their role as part of a larger unit, their community. People from all over the world chimed in on how community looks for them, how it has helped them heal, and how it empowers them to better play their part. 

How do you define community?

It is a sense of security that reminds you that you are loved. It is when that same love is reciprocated, so you feel full and fueled. It is being your best self, and it is understanding that your worst self is also loved and welcomed. It’s when we realize we are human. It’s when we learn we are no different from anyone else and that we are here to be our best selves, and in turn, we are here to lift those around us. It’s when we feel connected, when we understand that we are all here to love and to be loved.

– Cynthia Hass, New York, New York

Community is doing life with other people. It’s showing up for people at 2 AM. It’s random diner trips and deep conversations. Community is people who cheer for you and get on planes to see you and show up at the train station to grab you when you need a ride. They are people you can call and cry to. Community is made up of individuals who get you and ask the tough questions.

– Hannah Brencher, Atlanta, Georgia

Growing up on a tiny island with fewer than 2,500 people, my first response to define community would be a close-knit group of people who can support each other and share similar values. It’s not just being emotionally or mentally close but also physically close. However, over the past two years of my life, I have deeply connected with people around the world who don’t live on my tiny island; so even though they may not be physically close, they are still able to support and love me.

– Bekah Bass, Grand Manan, New Brunswick

Community is everything. It is the collective that supports and, by its very nature, finds the beauty and significance of the individual. Community is what gets you up when you are down and is there for you through thick and thin.

– Dawit Endale Alemayehu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Where do you find community?

I think you can find community in just about any place as long as you’re willing to look for it. Look for people who take you as you are. Look for people who understand you. Look for people who listen and want to get to know the real you. You should also be willing to be a listener and a person who shows up for people in your own community.

– Hannah Brencher, Atlanta, Georgia

For me, I find a deep sense of community in two places. The first is the French Quarter. After working down there for so long, I can’t walk the streets without seeing a hundred people I know and kissing all of them. We’re like a family. They’re more than just people I wait on; we check in on each other, do favors for each other, and hold each other when we cry. Working here gives me a feeling of family and kinship that I’ve never felt in one place before.

The second place would be my synagogue. When I first became Jewish, I quickly realized how community-based the Jewish faith is. Everyone looks out for each other, laughs with each other, mourns with each other, and accepts each other with open arms.

– Caitlyn Watson, New Orleans, Louisiana

I find community at work. Some members of the faculty have become great friends. In my neighborhood, there are these cohorts called “mahbers,” associations that work together to partake in social events, renovation of schools, security, and safety, and the members work with the government to voice the issues of the collective. I find community here. I also find community in the expatriates in Addis Ababa, who have remarkable experiences and genuinely expansive outlooks.

– Dawit Endale Alemayehu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

What is the value of community?

Community is the manifestation of the individual’s identity into oneness. It is the honest expression of a human’s most basic social need – the company of others. It is a metaphor, symbolic of the nature of the universe, stars, and sentient beings that are all part of this one essence. Community stands to remind us that, essentially, we are all connected on a very deep level. Stories of triumph and overcoming pain, hurt, addiction, and betrayal all come to life in the community. In Addis, coffee ceremonies are the medium through which people get to be who they are; it’s a platform that allows you to be there for each other. As a community, everyone grows and learns through the experiences of the individual.

– Dawit Endale Alemayehu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I think community is incredibly valuable; humans are not supposed to do life alone, but together. Community not only stops people from becoming isolated, but it is the source of most of the joyful things in life. Community means we can challenge each other, learn from each other, and love each other.

– Rebecca Argall, Southampton, United Kingdom

Has community ever helped you heal? If so, how?

I’ve just recently come back to the United States after a year abroad in Spain. It was one of the most liberating but frightening years of my life. For the first month, I was totally alone – no friends, no understanding of the Spanish language, and no plans. I spent a lot of time in my hotel room watching American movies and crying with my mother on Skype. There was a day where I woke up and asked myself, “Is today the day that I go home? Or is today the day that I make something happen?”

I did something. That day, I enrolled in a Spanish course. Every person in the course was in a similar situation. We were all new to the country and struggling to find our place. We bonded, and these people became like a family – a community. Without their support, I’m not sure I would have experienced Spain in the same way. 

– Cassie Hoz, Houston, Texas

I don’t have stories of healing, but the “mahber” community collective has a long-standing tradition of celebrating births and mourning losses together, which, according to my mom, is necessary. It keeps the heart in its place. There is a saying in Ethiopia: “He who eats alone dies alone.” It is blasphemous to do things by yourself, including the mundane, the sacred, and the secular – which embodies this necessity.  

– Dawit Endale Alemayehu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Recently my best friend’s brother passed away. These past few weeks I have had so much love and support in my life that I no longer feel broken. Although I may not be “healed,” I know that I am not broken, and I believe that is because of the love and hope that has constantly been poured into my life by those I love.

– Bekah Bass, Grand Manan, New Brunswick

More than I can count on my two hands and feet. As I’m lying on my bed, I have a direct view of the place I lived three years ago. As a freshman in college, I felt completely alone and cried nearly every night. It wasn’t until I moved into the Harriet E. Richards Cooperative House that I began the process of healing. This home has moved me in more ways than I can imagine and has given me a sense of community. Every day, I come home to 24 inspiring young girls who all have a story. It’s here where I learned I wasn’t alone in anything. 

– Cynthia Hass, New York, New York  

Why is it important to share experiences and stories with other people?

There is so much power in storytelling. It’s a way for us to discover ourselves. We can identify with the person or a situation, and suddenly we find that we aren’t so alone after all. The beautiful thing about a story is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways. It allows us to learn and discover what we need to do for ourselves in our own journey. Hearing the experiences of others helps you put words to your own story.

– Cassie Hoz, Houston, Texas

I like to say, “Smart people learn from their mistakes; smarter people learn from others’ mistakes.” It is by sharing stories and experiences that people perpetuate common knowledge and empower the next generation to start off where they finished as opposed to having them have to constantly reinvent the wheel.

– Nassim Kefi, Prague, Czech Republic

We get so consumed with thinking we are all alone in this journey. It is simply not true. Community makes us stronger and sharing our stories keeps us from thinking we are called to brave this thing called “life” alone.

– Hannah Brencher, Atlanta, Georgia

Leave a Reply

Comments (1)

  1. b.e.noll

    Community means that when you fall down…someone sees & hears it. Not for the purpose of pointing & laughing. Rather, for the purpose of coming to you, to reach out a hand to help you back up. It means sitting with the questions…when answers elude us. Even if all we do is sit together… in silence. It means when you hurt… I feel pain. When you cry…I cry too. When you celebrate…I celebrate with you…I celebrate…you.
    It’s been said:
    “if a tree falls in a forest & no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”
    “No, it makes a noise. In order for it to make a sound, someone has to hear it.”
    It means that when you fall…you don’t make a noise.
    It means having people who want you…as you…being you.
    To quote my Mother [when I ask what I can do for her]:
    “All you need to do is: Be & breathe.”
    Just be here & breathe

    “where do I find it?”
    in my friends.
    in my Wed. night group of guys.
    in my family.
    …& I’m always shocked….& always glad.

    “Where does it find me?”
    in emails when something goes wrong. facebook notes or tweets…
    When my Mom or Dad are in the hospital. Or something similar. And I get a call….. “you ok, B? do you need anything? I’m here, man. Name it. Just call me, ok? Please?” [from a friend from group, or family, or others]
    They remind me… they live out the line from that U2 song: “…there is no them…there’s only us….”
    [thanks for all the posts this week]

    Reply  |  
Get Email Updates

Sign up for our newsletter to hear updates from our team and how you can help share the message of hope and help.