I want to thank everyone for contributing to such a great dialog in response to my last post, "The Language We Use." Many of you had great comments and questions. Several of you had mentioned that "community" was harder to define than "family." I've given some thought to this, and here is what I've been thinking.
When I think of the word community, the words togetherness, connections, and gatherings come to mind. Just for fun, I looked up the root meaning of community and found it is derived from a Latin word which means "common." How perfect is that? It's what we have in common with one another that brings us together.
So I have a church community, a local community (my town), my original community, and my Vermont community. In each of these cases, there is something that I have in common with the other people involved, and some reason why we came or come together.
I have often said that every community has some kind of cohesion if it is to survive. And I think the level of commitment we make to a given community is commensurate with the cohesion of that community.
It's hard to have the sense of community the Amish have. Everyone in a given church district is expected to follow the rules of the Ordnung. That level of commitment or self-sacrifice makes for a pretty strong cohesion. Most of us are not willing to make that level of commitment, even if it means having such a strong sense of community.
David and I once had a counselor who claimed that couples who have a common interest or a common struggle stay together. So the word "common" comes up here as well.
I think that friendships are like that too. I don't have any friends with whom I don't have anything in common, do you? When we cease to have something in common is when we drift away from one another. I have some friends who are dear to me even when there are many miles between us. These are the kindred spirits in my life. Even if we are not in touch for a long time, when we do come together, we take up where we left off.
I had two friends spontaneously invite themselves over for an afternoon of playing Scrabble on my porch this afternoon. We had so much fun! And the bond between us deepened. One of these friends has gone kayaking with David and me (David and I were in a canoe, actually). And both of these friends are part of our church community. The more we have in common, the closer we become. I look forward to more such times.
So how do you define community?