Definitions of Community…

For more than half my life, I never lived anywhere longer than 5 years.  On average, I packed my bags and moved to a new city (and sometimes a new country) every 20 months.  When I was a child, I usually didn’t want to move.  Who wants to leave friends and the comfort of the familiar?  But eventually moving became a habit that I continued into my early adult life.  Until I settled down in Jamaica Plain.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that staying in one place is not the same as standing still– big changes can still happen.  In my case, while living in the same neighborhood, I got married, bought a house, gave birth to three kids, changed jobs, went back to school, got divorced, and, well, the story is still not over.  Though I’ve continued to travel, it is different packing a small bag versus an entire apartment.

All of this is to say that I only came to really understand the meaning and value of community once I allowed the grass to grow under my feet.  Here’s a sampling of the small miracles that come from staying long enough to recognize them:

When your neighbor is one of the librarians at the local branch library and she brings home a book for you to see because she thinks you might like it.

When you call your dentist to tell him you’ve broken the crown on your tooth and he not only fits you in the same day (though his schedule is packed), he tells you not to bother stopping in at the reception desk, there’s no charge for the service.

When a friend makes a home delivery on his way to work of walnut-chocolate-chip-banana bread simply because he wants you to try some.

When you walk into the local sub shop and don’t have to tell them what you want.

When the street you live on has a list serve for all the neighbors so that the day you get accidentally locked outside on your second floor porch, you can send out a plea on your cell phone and, within an hour, someone comes to rescue you.

When the guy at the hardware store gives you a discount you didn’t request simply because you’ve been such a loyal customer.

When you realize you are the one left with memories of other people who’ve decided to move away and you wonder: Why did they leave such a great community?

What else would you add?


About HomenDunRoamin

Teaching Artist & Writer: fiction, poetry & nonfiction. Recently completed work: a hybrid memoir. In progress: a novel set in an unnamed Latin American country on the brink of war. The book examines violent and nonviolent resistance and the choices women are forced to make to survive.
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4 Responses to Definitions of Community…

  1. Margy says:

    Love it! I have had a similar experience (lots of moving until I was 30, then settled in) and benefit daily from being a part of a community. Here’s a post I wrote several years ago about what it’s like (the Read Leaf was the name of our bookstore, which was right downtown on Main Street):

  2. Tony Lineham says:

    I am jealous. While I have ‘lived’ in the same house since 1997 and been happily married to the same women (Helen) since 1980, I really have no sense of community. Partly because I choose to live in Northern Virginia (Washington DC suburb) but mostly because I am gone overseas for something like 250 days a year. Oh sure I get to see lots of great and not so great places, get to meet and interact with lots of fantastic people, when I am home it is like I am a stranger in my own land.

    • Tony: Thanks for reading this post and commenting– it’s great to hear from you! Is it a blessing or a curse to have once lived in a very close community and yet never experience another quite like it? In my experience, community is created from a mix of conscious planning, serendipity, a sense of humor and large doses of flexibility and patience. I can imagine that some of those ingredients are hard to gather when you are traveling overseas for great stretches of time. On the other hand, you have been happily married far longer than I ever managed– another kind of community all its own?

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