Strangely enough, I have a blog post in my head, trying to get out. And it’s not even Monday morning. Similar thing happened to me yesterday, when I had an unprecedented desire to use the elliptical machine, on a day that I was scheduled only for strength training. Well, I acted on that odd impulse, and it turned out well, so I’ll try going with this one, too. Speed blogging rules apply.
“Community” is a word I hear and see frequently in the Internet Age. As far as I can tell, any group of people with one person or topic interest in common can be considered a “community”. By this definition, I’m a member of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of communities. Here’s a few of them, in no particular order:
- International Coach Federation
- International Ombuds Association
- North American Women MBAs
- 85 Broads
- Temple Isaiah
- Wellesley College
- MIT Sloan
- Arlington Entrepreneurs
- Society of Organizational Learning
- Thompson School
- CJP Women’s Philanthropy
- CareerWise MBAs
- Boston Facilitators Roundtable
Yet these days I frequently feel isolated when it comes to the good ol’ Agricultural Age definition… my local peeps. Neighbors. People whose homes I can walk to, borrow a cup of sugar, and come back from in the same hour.
I find myself thinking about this often. Why do I consider myself blessed to have dozens, perhaps hundreds, of friends, yet feel I have very little community? Why do I pass so many people on the street or in the playground whose faces I recognize and whose names I even know, yet my mind goes blank when I need help? Not “can we talk via phone or ichat” help, but IRL (in real life), f2f (face-to-face), live-and-in-person, stand-right-next-to me-for-at-least-five-minutes-in-a-row help? The sad, startling, and scary truth is there is not one human being who lives in my town who I feel comfortable calling.
Perhaps this feeling is exacerbated for me because I’m a single mom. Or because my office is in my home. But I am not the shy and retiring type all the time. (Sometimes, yes.) I participate in many of the communities of which I’m a member. I volunteer at my kids’ school (started before I even had kids!). I’ve been active in my Temple. I attend events. I introduce myself to strangers. I invite people over (they usually come, and we usually have a good time!). I offer to help others, and I follow through on my offers. When people ask me, I say “yes” as often as I can. I’ve taken all sorts of proactive steps during the 12 years I’ve lived here to build community. Yet I still feel alone.
I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one. In the area where I live, usually every adult in a household works (or is looking for work) outside his or her home. Everyone is stretched financially, and for time. Even the kindest of people are too maxed out. Many people in my area have close family nearby, and I admit that I envy them.
I think Hillary Clinton was exactly right when she espoused the theory that it takes a village to raise a child. Where do I go to get me a village?