The Importance of Community
Thank you for joining me on another episode of Hometown: Earth – as a reminder, be sure to leave a review if you haven’t yet (click any platform above!) It helps the show reach more people, which means a larger Hometown: Earth community!
And speaking of – this month, we’re going to talk more about developing communities – more specifically, sustainable communities.
What do you think about when I say the word community? Do you think of warm, happy feelings? Feelings of connectedness? Belonging? Support? Maybe you think of your city as your community, your online network of friends, or a group you are part of – like an academic community or cultural community. Keep in mind that not all communities are good. Some communities leave people feeling excluded or don’t have positive aims. But I think this definition of community makes the most sense.
“A community is a group of people who share an identity-forming narrative.”
Our communities shape our understanding of the world. These narratives contribute to our beliefs and values and how we perpetuate that to others. In some ways, it defines us, who we let in as part of the community, and who we don’t.
We are all human beings who want a connection with other people, and we can do that through community.
You are part of the Hometown: Earth community. A sustainable community of people who want to live in harmony with others and the planet. That is the narrative that forms our identity and connects us even though we are a community sprawled across the country and the world.
Creating this sustainable community and the sense of community, in general, helps us to improve our health and happiness, reach our goals, and most importantly, collaborate on solutions that will enhance planetary health and drive social change.
In this episode, we’ll discuss what makes up a sense of community and why it’s important for happiness, planetary health, and social change.
To start, people are happier when they’re part of a community. Research shows that people who have a strong connection to a community are happier and that, in return, those happy people have a positive feedback loop – making the community stronger.
Think about how you feel when surrounded by people who just get it – it feels good, right? A community of like-minded individuals can help us feel heard and validated.
A sense of belonging
However, community is more than just being around other people who think similarly. It’s also about feeling like you have someone to count on who will help pull you through tough times. It gives you a sense of security, safety, and belonging.
When we’re plugged into our community, we feel less alone in the world. We can’t always be happy, but we’ll have a better shot at feeling supported and safe. We’ll be more likely to feel like we belong and are part of something bigger than ourselves.
“With a secure sense of belonging comes a sense of purpose. Belonging and purpose can help increase feelings of solidarity and fulfillment, which can be important both personally and professionally. And a strong sense of purpose can even help you live longer.”
I know that when I get down about climate change and its effects on our planet, I find strength in knowing I belong to a group that cares and is fighting collectively for so many good things in this world. And when I take sustainable actions, I feel like I’m contributing to a larger whole and holding someone else up who might be feeling down about the state of things.
It also forms a sense of resiliency – something that is common with having a community.
That type of pro-social behavior and influence is what communities can be good for if used in a healthy way! Sometimes we need someone to hold us accountable. To encourage us to keep going even if we don’t feel like what we’re doing is making a difference. To motivate us to bring positive changes to our lives and communities.
It takes a community to make a change. When we are trying to get things to change, whether globally or locally, we have to get people to open their mindset around certain topics and act accordingly. And the way to do that is to rewrite community narratives.
Writer and professor Toby Lowe said:
“Community is an important concept for social change because it helps us to see that social change requires a change in some of the most important stories we tell ourselves. Social change requires that we rewrite our communal narratives. Social change is change in community.”
I watched a documentary the other day that linked the first full photo of earth, the iconic Blue Marble image from 1972, to climate activism in that time frame.
People could get the perspective that we belonged to something bigger than ourselves, and we needed to protect the planet that we are on because we don’t have another one. They felt community which led to influence and social change.
But besides climate issues, any social justice issue has taken a community – a group who identifies with the same narrative – to unite and fight for change.
We need community to reach goals greater than ourselves.
Collaboration within communities is a big part of reaching those goals and positive outcomes. It’s how we are inspired and get new ideas from people who understand us but inevitably have lived different lives than us and will have a unique perspective to offer.
Two heads really are better than one – as long as they’re still diverse!
When we collaborate, we learn HOW to talk to each other better and increase our communication within that community, and with other communities we are a part of.
Research shows that all these things add up – improving our mental health, brain health, and heart health, and can even extend the length of your life.
This is because our health outcomes have a large component of social determinants or the social factors and physical conditions of the environment in which people are born, live, learn, play, work, and age.
It’s about access within our physical communities to good jobs, housing, education, and lifestyle choices. A lot of which are determined by our physical and social communities.
Think about it – if the people you surround yourself value sustainability, healthy living, and other positive activities – you’re more likely to do those things too. But if your community is influenced by people who consume without being mindful and don’t respect their health or others even – that behavior will rub off on you too.
Something to grow on
As we’ve seen, a strong sense of community can help us feel less alone and more supported in our lives. And if we have that feeling of connection with others, that will be good for progress, our health and happiness, social change, and much more!
In the coming weeks, we’ll talk about this more from a few different angles – but until then, I want you to think about your community (or communities).
- Think about the influences you have on them and their impact on you.
- What are your attitudes to those who are outside of your community or don’t share your narrative?
- What can you learn from them?
- How could your community work with another for a shared goal of sustainability?
I challenge you to take these thoughts to your community and see what others have to say. I’m sure it will be enlightening!
And as always, I won’t leave you hanging without a quote.
American author, activist, and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King said,
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members,”
So be compassionate this week – towards yourself, others, and Mother Earth.
Until next time, thanks for joining me, neighbor.
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