June 18, 2013

What is community?

So often in the funding world, when we talk about "community", it's all in our heads - an intellectual construct instead of something we feel and experience on the sidewalks of our neighborhoods and around our kitchen tables.  When we talk about small grants that build community, we think of what we can measure and how those things link with other things we can measure - how connectedness leads to less crime and better schools.

I stumbled on this beautiful expression today that jolted me right out of that "head space" and back into another reality of community that is calling to me.  I'm sharing this with you in case you hear some singing in this too.

We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been - a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time.  


Somewhere, there are people
to whom we can speak with passion
without having the words catch in our throats.

Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us,
eyes will light up as we enter,
voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power.

Community means strength that joins our strength
to do the work that needs to be done.
Arms to hold us when we falter.
A circle of healing.
A circle of friends.
Someplace where we can be free.

- Starhawk

I believe that the what keeps us all coming back to this very challenging conversation about building community is because we have all seen or felt glimpses of of this - "strength that joins our strength" - either in our own lives or in those that we have witnessed.  "Voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power" as people act boldly to move their ideas into action with those around them.  And "arms that hold us when we falter in a circle of healing - a circle of friends" to help us be courageous.

And, that in addition to work that tries to reverse big trends like those that Living Cities just identified in their State of the City report, we absolutely must not forget about the work that is done with this understanding of community.

Community means strength that joins our strength.  

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