My sister posted a picture on facebook the other day, in the spirit of “Throwback Thursday”. It was an image of her and a couple of neighborhood friends playing in our yard when we were children. When I saw the picture, memories flooded back. I recalled summer nights, when we would play outside with the other neighborhood kids, well after the sun went down. I remembered jumping into piles of leaves in the fall and building snowmen in the winter. The sense of community we enjoyed as kids visited me like an old friend, the instant I saw that photo.
Dictionary.com defines community as “social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.” Isn’t it so much more than that though? Community is where you borrow a tool you don’t have, or a cup of sugar when you’re running low. Community is where people come together, pooling their resources during a bad storm. Community is where neighbors arrange dinners for the one among them who is going through a difficult time.
That kind of community is a special thing. It doesn’t happen by accident. It’s seems missing in many neighborhoods, as families retreat indoors to spend “tech-gether” time, each being distracted by our respective electronic devices and the digital communities in which we find our social identities. The problem: those communities are limited. Certainly, they serve a purpose, but nothing like the community we can have among our neighbors, to touch one another’s lives in more personal ways. That community is built through shared experiences, and time spent getting to know one another. It’s a community worth the investment of our time and personal resources, where our kids learn the importance of people depending on each other.
It makes me wonder. What concept of community are we building among our children? Will they only know the community where we keep one another at a comfortable distance, finding ourselves without meaningful support when trouble comes? Are we robbing them of the experience of seeing their parents making themselves available to meet the needs of those around them? How will that understanding of community affect what they think about the Kingdom of God? I think the way we define and interact with our community is more important than we might realize.
So, tell me what you think. How do you define community? What role does community play in your life? What role do you play in your community?