What is a community? What is its role in broader society? How does a community empower those who belong to it? Where does a communuity derive its own power from?
Some of these questions have been floating through my brainbox over the past few weeks as I have had the opportunity to travel and be among a community of close family, as I traverse the various social media streams and read the reactions of some close and distant friends to world events, and as I have continued my solo walks through the local forest preserve and watched its animal dwellers prepare for winter. I share some observations with you here, and hope you will share some of yours with the #SpiritChat community over the coming week.
The first role of a community is to create and provide space. A space where new members can arrive and feel a sense of safety. They feel safe in the knowledge that they will be treated with kindness, with welcoming smiles, with extended hands of friendship, with warmth and with a genuine sense of joy and gratitude expressed by all members of the community. This space can be physical or virtual. Community leaders often identify themselves by their willingness to offer unconditional heartspace.
The second role of a thriving community is that it grows leaders. How does this happen? Once the community space is established, it provides opportunities for growth for all its members. As the comfort level of the members grows in being with each other on a frequent basis, seeds of mini-friendships are planted, which form roots of friendship. Eventually, the healthy growth produces leaves and fruits which attract new community members. As the trust, respect and confidence level of the members grows, some of them feel courageous enough to ‘drop seeds’ of their own, and form new communities. This creates more heartspace, attracts different segments of people, and grows more leaders.
The third role of a community is that it protects those who are either too weak to stand on their own, by lending them a voice of strength that comes from harmony. The cool shade of a community may also protect those who need some time, space and healing words and remedies, to recover their strength caused by pain and suffering caused by ill-health, personal loss, or a sense of shared loss felt by the community as a whole. This protection is in the form of bridges built by the community leaders, for those in need to connect with those who have an abundance of what is needed by the needy. A community becomes an opportunity and a privilege for those who have the desire to serve and heal with gratitude, to be able to do so.
I am sure that those of you who have read so far can think of additional roles for communities, their members and their leaders. The three roles that I have listed above – to created and provide space, to provide opportunites for growth and grow leaders, to protect, serve and heal – are all, by design, designed to empower all who choose to embrace those three roles. However, we know all too well that not all communities operate in the realm of openness, love and expanded heartspace. The negative space created by excess of fear, misplaced jealousy, over-protectiveness and runaway greed can create communities – but these are anything but empowering for their members or their leaders. How can those of us who believe in creating empowering communities connect and communicate with those who choose to do otherwise? Can we? Should we even bother? Why?
I hope that you will pause and give some thought and consideration to the communities that you belong to, the values that they represent, and how they align with your values and your heartspace. I hope that you will join the #SpiritChat community in this conversation, and meet some new folks, form some mini-friendships, and who knows, even form your own thriving communities in the future.
P.S. Part of this conversation will be held ‘live’ on twitter – Sunday, November 25th at 9amET/2pmUTC/7:30pm India. I hope you will be able to join us in that hour. What other key roles do your communities play in your life? How has your engagement with the #SpiritChat community affected your life? How can the community serve you better? I invite you to share with us… Thank you!