Building Community

One of the most challenging aspects of the society in which I live is building and maintaining community with like-minded people. When I leave the house to run errands, I’m mostly in my car and I don’t necessarily have a lot to do with other people unless I make the effort to connect. Los Angeles is a city where we rarely walk anywhere, we stay home to watch screeners or Netflix instead of going to the theater, and we have food delivered more often than we sit with people in restaurants.

But this issue goes further than where I live. It’s about thought and intention. I had a girlfriend who lives in Chicago so we never saw each other a great deal because we live so far apart. But for years, I felt connected because she and I used to speak almost every day – until she went on a blind date and met her dream man. I was happy for her that she had found someone. I knew she really wanted a relationship. And I understood that her new beau would become the center of her attention and she and I would speak less, especially at the beginning, but she disappeared so completely and so fast, it was stunning. When we managed to speak on a rare occasion, she complained of being exhausted all the time, she whispered so he wouldn’t overhear our conversations, she stopped answering my texts or returning my calls, and before I knew it, she was Gone, Girl. And she never returned. I hadn’t experienced that one since Junior High and it was pretty shocking.

Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t make a single person less valuable or less likely to make your life a better place. Whatever your relationship status, I think it’s crucial to stay connected to other people. The gifts we give each other are priceless. They make us feel loved and cared about, necessary emotions for a good and balanced life. The women and a few good men who gather in my knitting store, for example, enhance my life tremendously as we make beautiful things together, laugh together, give each other recommendations for doctors, mechanics, contractors, share recipes and discuss whatever else we want and need.

My writing class is an opportunity I created so I could have a community. Many people suggested that I teach online in order to reach more participants, but getting larger numbers is not my goal. I would much rather keep the numbers small and meet people in person. I need physical connection above all else. I was reading an article in a magazine recently and the writer said that married people with families often feel just as lonely as people like me who live alone. We all need connection with more than one person. We need to understand what other people think and we need to learn to tolerate ideas and opinions that are different from our own. This makes a well rounded society with smarter and more compassionate people.

I think many of us will agree that the current political climate makes sharing opposing ideas almost impossible. I used to relish a good debate where each person gave an opinion and then listened to someone else’s. But these days, we are deeply polarized, a great loss to our evolution. It deprives us of the opportunity to learn new things. To consider ideas that we never imagined. To expand our knowledge base and to show respect for other people and their opinions.

Do you have community in your life? If not, do you miss it? How could you create it?