Community...We Can't Do it Alone
“We want to be protected, respected, connected.” Kristen Christy, 2018 Air Force Spouse of the Year
Ultimately, we want community.
What is your definition of community? I suspect, we all define it differently. Community is about a group living in the same place or having characteristics in common, or a feeling of companionship with others because of a common attitude, interest, or goals. We need to come together and make things happen instead of being in competition with each other. Don’t get me wrong, I am competitive and want to win…like all the time, but there is a time and place. We need to find our common purpose and connection among the diversity we bring to a group.
We need to understand that one person’s choice impacts the lives of others within the community. A speaker Kristen Christy, who I recently heard at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) National Character and Leadership Symposium (NCLS), Kristen Christy told the story of her husband taking his life and stated, “We were not made to do life alone.”
We need to realize things can’t always be about us and recognize the importance of embracing community.
Christy’s call to action for community (as it helped her through adversity) is:
1. Show up
2. Be intentional – in the moment do it; follow the calling
3. Use your resources - first know what they are
These seem like 3 simple things, yet we don’t do them!
I’ll take it a few steps further with additional community building principles from Komives et al. (2016):
1. Be Committed –keep promises and fulfill obligations/expectations
2. Be Mindful –think about what we do/say; examine our behavior
3. Be Unconditionally Accepting – accept others as they are; do not try to change/control
4. Be Concerned for Both Self & Others –consult others and engage in dialogue; be graceful
5. Be Understanding –strive to understand – seek first to understand then be understood
6. Be Ethical –engage in moral behavior
7. Be Peaceful –strive for harmony – don’t be violent or deceitful
Christy explains our heart is the biggest muscle, and we need to be able to use it to overcome adversity. In order to do that we have to have someone who can take the emotion out of the adversity for us. This is where community comes in. People who may not be directly connected to the story or situation can be a support system, whether it be with food, kind words, or simply being a warm body in proximity. Showing up is what is most important in situations, even if we don’t know what to do.
I have lectured to students in the past about the importance of building community. The fact is leadership is relational. This means having a purpose, inclusivity, being able to empower others, and common ethics which can bring people together to create positive change. As humans we are more alike than different. To value community is to value our interdependence. Knowing about community, believing in the worth of community, and developing and sustaining community are important aspects of leadership. Understanding is essential to creating and nurturing the context in which the group or organization functions.
We do not have to be a one person show in life, nor should we be. We have to be in this together and control what we can in our chaotic lives! We have to own the fact that we cannot do it all alone. I repeat….even if it is just for myself to hear….we cannot do it (whatever it may be) all alone. And we need to recognize we do not have to be good at everything because there may be someone else out there we can go to or rely on – use your tribe or network. I’m giving you permission to do this (just in case that is what you are waiting for!). This will take some of the pressure off of you! This is not selfish if we are doing it with good intent.
As of late, I have recognized the value of community. The growth of your community can be intentional or organic. In my case perhaps a bit of both. Through health/fitness/wellness challenges I have been participating in for over a year, I have gotten to know people in my home community that I never would have otherwise known or connected with. My hometown is small, and granted I was gone for years prior to our move back, but not knowing the people makes for a hard place to feel like you belong. Through my challenge experiences, I have come to rely on others for their support and motivation in the fitness realm and out of it. We support each other’s ups and downs outside of the workouts too. Life happens and we need to be there for each other through all circumstances.
We need to let others know we are there for them, so they don’t feel like a burden or bothersome when they want to reach out to their community. We all want to feel like we belong somewhere. We crave connection. We all need help or guidance at various points in life. We want a network or tribe to know us and challenge us to be more than we believe possible.
How do you or can you use community to make you a better person? Who are your people or community? Why are they your people or community? Where can you seek out the community you need?
Komives, S. R., Lucas, N., & McMahon, T. R. (2016). Exploring Leadership: For College Students Who Want to Make a Difference. (2nd Edition). Jossey-Bass.