Is Grand County’s Sense of Community Already Gone?
September 18, 2008
Is it already gone, those elements of our society that create a sense of community?
This question was recently investigated by this very newspaper. It was discovered that the phrase “sense of community” invariably was chosen by interviewees in their effort to reason the contrast between Grand County’s then and now.
Our collective longing for a sense of community continues to be used in article after document after mission after plan even though it is my belief that we as a group have not created a pragmatic definition of this terminology. We have not yet established characteristics and qualities nor have we determined related actions associated with the term “sense of community”.
I actually conducted a survey in 2003 among leaders in our community to determine a working definition of the pertinent phrase in question. This brain strain was prompted by my studies in speech communication and was a field study in semantics I had determined would be of great benefit to me and, hopefully, to the polled politicians.
In the responses cited from my questionnaire, “sense of community” was used as a noun ” an idea to be further described. The adjective “small” was referred to most often, but, as it has already been pointed out by an old local, we cannot exactly ask people to go away in order to pare down to a subjective small population.
Anthropologist Robin Dunbar may know why “small” seems so characteristic to our sense of community. Dunbar proposes his Rule of 150 to explain that humans are affected by our brain’s capacity to be comfortably interactive with only about 150 other people. Among this number of familiar faces we are at our most creative, productive, caring, and cohesive state of co-habitation.
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At this size, community relationships are bonded by interactions of work and play, intentions of behavior, peer accountability, interactive memories, and shared accomplishments. Grand County old timers, in their smaller numbers, felt that everyone naturally knew everyone else and that all were looking out after each others’ welfare.
I believe that it is significant that most of my survey respondents also correlated the phrase “sense of community” to qualities of relationship and belonging. Most often, positive senses were related by describing types of people or actions that create an essence of camaraderie and connectedness.
Perhaps the phrase could be more easily approached if we made clear the role this terminology is performing in our many communications. I am assuming, by our constant reference, that we wish to concern ourselves, both personally and communally, with specific actions that will restore or fortify our valued sense of community.
Life coaching is all about realizing conditions and actions that support our happiness and goals. What were we when our sense of community was reportedly alive and well? We obviously cannot go back to small, but we can certainly think and act small.
Within our growing community we can chose to react to each other with the intensity of a small population who depends on each other for support in this still isolated and rugged lifestyle. We can adhere ourselves to smaller units of productive organizations, like-minded enthusiasts, work-related associates, and resident neighborhoods (not necessarily our own).
The idea is to purposely create genuine, manageable relationships, like in the good old days, by truly knowing a small network of people. Through these connections we will gain a sense of our chosen community’s talents, weaknesses, contributions, and needs to coordinate with our own.
I have learned to define “sense of community” by actions, not by adjectives. We can know names, drop by, celebrate for, play with, exchange ideas, bring food, pitch in, lend things, pet sit, call up, work beside, shovel out, honor environments, protect kids, contribute to, and share hardships.
In other words, we will know how to fit in, how to find support, and how to share of ourselves by manifesting a sense of community within whatever intimate group(s) we best feel comfort. Leaders can then recognize and nurture our various small and familiar activities as well as our vast and expanding events.
Our sense of community is not already gone; it is just waiting to be savored in small Grand County bites.
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