Building community part 2: Prioritizing connection
September 8, 2017
There is a simple, yet timeless metaphor in the concept of sowing and reaping. Community is our garden of life, and like the literal gardens that feed our bellies, both need commitment and tending.
In my years studying and practicing counseling I have learned that those who prioritize and utilize their communities have much greater success in getting through difficult seasons of life as well as experiencing long-term happiness. It is one of the sweetest harvests you can reap. However, to reap the rewards, you must be willing to first sow in the effort and tend to the occasional obstacle. These challenges to building community can be both real and perceived.
A long winter season can be a very real challenge when added duties of snow removal, increased travel time, and less daylight attempt to keep you home under a blanket by the fire. Now for many, I realize, snow sports are the highlight of Grand County living. This may be the connection point for you. However, if you are not one to embrace arctic outdoor activities, it will be more important that you establish some rhythms in your community connections before winter so that you are more likely to sustain the habit.
While anxiety can seem like another very real obstacle for those of us who struggle in social settings, I encourage you from my own experience, that you can overcome this one as well. Starting with a community group that meets around an activity can help. By focusing on a book, sport, or craft, you can direct your energy and attention towards the set activity which gives you some margin for you to settle into the social aspect.
Our time, money and energy are the main resources we possess to spend on life. Each of these can be either an asset or obstacle depending on your perspective. How we spend these resources is a great indicator on our values and priorities. If you are anything like me, this needs to be evaluated and adjusted at times to reflect the changes I want to see in my life. It may be that you will need to reprioritize one or all of your resources to invest in the community connections you desire. You may decide to reduce screen time during the week, free up finances by canceling old subscriptions or let go of a toxic relationship so that you can build new ones. Like a garden, you can redesign your community landscape as you learn and grow.
Lastly, I propose that one of the fastest growing obstacles to building community today is offense. Taking offense is like the persistent thistle in the garden. It grows easily and its beautiful flower might even attempt to justify it, but when left unchecked, it will choke out the true harvest fruit. When you are investing in connecting with people, chances are good that you will have the opportunity to get offended. I suggest that this is a choice. It is also a choice to believe the best about people, to extend compassion and understanding for the occasional mistake or bad day. So I encourage you to be courageous and overcome what might deter you on this goal to prioritize connection with others. If you can handle a Grand County winter, then you are already an overcomer.
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In the last part of the series, coming next week, we will examine ways to deepen connections and how to utilize our community, the true joys of belonging.
Kristyn Roe, a resident of Fraser, is a wife, mother, dog and horse lover whose passion is serving as a counselor to help people in her community find healing, hope, and purpose. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org