What is community? What does community represent for you? If language was a barrier and you could only communicate in a painting, what would your painting of community look like? I would paint the L.E.T.S. [i] – something that came out of what community represents for me – which I created in 2001 and which still exists today. It would look like a group of people spread out over a local community, interconnected with each other, young and old, from all walks of life, like a network, a web, connecting some with many others, some with fewer others, but all there for each other, a social safety net and an opportunity pool.
My drawing would show these people exchanging services the way it’s been done for generations: Paul (handyman) mows my lawn and uses the tokens he earns doing this to have Mary (retired seamstress) hem his new jeans, and Mary (brown thumb) uses her tokens to have Susan (green thumb) plant her flower boxes, and so on. I would paint them smiling, grateful for the valuable service supplied or rendered, for the opportunity to help someone or be helped, for the human contact, for the money saved, etc.
In 1998, I was a stay-at-home mom with a baby and a toddler and had just moved to a new town. The few people I knew there were all working full time and I had no one else, besides my children, to interact with during the day. I felt very isolated. Then, I heard of a local babysitting exchange. It was for parents to exchange babysitting among each other. Many were also stay-at-home moms, but others worked part-time and even full time. My children immediately loved it. They made new friends who shared their toys and their homes with them, and they learned to share their own toys and home with other children who came to be babysat. I also immediately loved this exchange. As I started to build friendships, my feeling of isolation was replaced by a feeling of community, of belonging. The L.E.T.S. I created in 2001 is the same basic model, but with many other services offered and exchanged locally. My painting on community was an example of people interconnected in a web locally, functioning as one unit, one whole; a sort of holism. Our sense of community and belonging is one of the most important factors in longevity and well being [ii], [iii]. It’s part of what it means to be human; it’s part of our humanness and we long for it.
A lot has changed since 2001. Today, our society relies much more on the internet, and this has created a paradigm shift in the way connections are made. It’s a shift from hierarchical trees of connections to complex networks [iv] of connections, interwoven with each other and creating a more complex whole. An example of this is social media. Many people report feeling more connected to others since social media, and there can be enormous benefits to this new way of connecting. We can communicate with people across the globe as if they were across the street. We can connect with people with similar interests and aspirations that we would, for various reasons, otherwise never have met in person. Wonderful opportunities have arisen from this new network and this new way of connecting with one another.
In this new connection society, “we are playing an infinite game”, as Seth Godin puts it: “I’m throwing this ball to you so you will throw it back. I am connecting with you so you will connect to her. I am weaving together the fabric of a community. … When you weave it, when you create this environment where people are able to see each other, find each other, do things together, enormous amounts of value are created. … Over time, when someone notices you, and cares about you and connects with you, that is the original social media, that is what we are trying to replicate with all of our buzzing and responsive mobile nonsense. … We are trying to replicate this idea of being seen.” [v] And I think this is because we actually feel less connected amidst the incessant bombardment of information and distractions in this new society. Although there is potential in this new tool called the internet, so much seems to have been lost in the depth and meaning of the human connection, and we often lose the core of who we are, the humanness that we are. It’s as if we are trying to find that in the next tweet, the next email, the next newsflash or post or text, as if that longing will finally be satisfied in the next thing.
Running a race and getting cheered on by the people along the way is being seen, as is posting on social media, but what is the difference between what is seen during a race and what is seen in a social media post? If we long to be “seen”, what is it that we want others to see? It’s not necessarily just because their users save on travel expenses that Airbnb has had such tremendous success. As Airbnb’s Jason Bosinoff puts it: “Our product is community.” [vi] But what is it in me that I want others to see? Who is this self? What is this part in me that longs to connect with that part in you? And how can I be more present, truly present, with myself to answer that question?
At the MICH Nov. 28, 2015 Experiential Workshop and Open House, we provide the container, the space for those questions. It is a day about community, about helping people better connect with themselves and get out of their own way, so they can really see themselves and better connect with others in this web of life, in YOUR holistic life. If this is what community is to you, and if these are questions you’d like to find answers to, then come join us!
Janik Tremblay – DHom
With an interest in nutrition, holism and business, Janik is a MICH-trained homeopath with a family-oriented practice. To learn more about Janik, visit her profile page in our Professional Directory or click here to read more posts by Janik.
[i] Community Research Connections on Local Exchange Trading Systems (L.E.T.S.)
[ii] www.CDC.gov on Health-Related Quality of Life: “Having supportive relationships is one of the strongest predictors of well-being, having a notably positive effect.”
[iii] Myers DG. Close relationships and quality of life. In: D Kahneman, E Diener, N Schwarz. (eds.) Well-Being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation Publications; 2003:374–391.
[iv] Manuel Lima’s TEDTalk: ‘A visual history of human knowledge’ is a beautiful illustration of this.
[v] Seth Godin’s keynote address at Inbound 2015
[vi] Jason Bosinoff interviewed on The Growth Show