Each of us is a part of numerous overlapping communities. We may rail against our inclusion and we may feel alienated within these groups, but our survival would be nearly impossible without some connection to others. I am using “community” in a broad sense, including neighborhoods, religious organizations, clubs, and various associations. Thanks to modern mobility, telephones, and the internet, we can stay close to our comrades far away. By engineering our lives, we can “manage” our involvement in each community. We can choose new groups and even develop our own custom-made ones that fit our individual needs.
A community can be an oasis, a place to nourish our spirits and find the strength we need to ride life’s ups and downs. It also offers us a place to discover our talents and a place to give to others. Being part of a group is not the same thing as developing friendships, but it does offer a pool of candidates. One might even find a life mate among such like-minded people.
An early unhappy memory has me at my fifth birthday party feeling uncomfortable and alienated from the other children. I saw myself as unlovable. I was depressed and remained so into my late 30’s. I kept my group involvement to a minimum and kept a low profile when involvement was inevitable. Getting married and having children was an attempt to develop a nourishing community, but trying to get all needs met by a family puts too much pressure on that fragile institution. In an attempt to grow, I chose a professional group that shared my values and there I began to put down some roots. In addition to other rewards, I rediscovered my passion for dancing there. My next chosen community grew out of my decision to become a dancer. Over several years, I have developed a wonderful dance community and several good friends. Recently, I was reminded of the importance of this dance community when Christine and I threw a celebration for a couple in the group who had just adopted Ali, a delightful Russian baby.