com·mu·ni·ty (k-myn-t) from thefreedictionary.com
Community. It’s a broad term, but has a huge meaning to me. A friend recently blogged about this, and you can read it here. So many people have forgotten what the smaller, more personal meaning of community is. In the kind of community I’m talking about, you know your neighbors, and everyone works together to help each other. It’s like an extended family, where maybe not everyone is real close, but are still there for each other. I have been thinking of this a lot, especially as I run into projects that would really benefit from being a community project. There is no local community for me. Those willing to help each other are so spread out that it’s almost impossible to do so. How nice it would be to have other women to preserve foods with, to visit while gardening, people to help put a roof on a barn. I respect the Amish and Mennonite communities in large part because they understand this concept and teach it to their children. They help each other, even when it doesn’t directly benefit them or they have other things to do. Work is done together so that each task is manageable. Each family knows that they do not want to be a burden to their community, but they can feel free to ask for help when they need it because the others will cheerfully do all they can. In a community, everyone knows each other and the issues that arise in government entitlement programs are not so prevalent as each person knows the hand that’s helping them and how they are affected.
Right now, the fad “community gardening” is running rampant. In most cases, it will die within a year, maybe two of beginning. Why? Because people don’t realize what community means. In a community endeavor, each person must commit time, energy, and often money in an ongoing lifestyle. A community farm requires that others help in the animal and crop daily care. These are great things when a group gets together and understands that every person must contribute, but often only one or two people do most of the work while others who find themselves too busy with other parts of life just reap the rewards for a short time before giving up entirely. I find a prevailing opinion in people today that if you grow food crops or have livestock that everything is free to you, and should be to them as well. In a community, if you have more than you can use of something, you pass it on knowing that others will do the same with you when they have excess. The people in your community are close enough to see the labor you give, the time and money involved in everything you do. You can count on each other in disaster and in times of plenty.
I have tried so many times to get those close by me to work in a community. There are older people who complain that gardening is too much for them alone now that their kids are gone, or who say their grass is too much trouble these days. I offer to help them garden in return for produce. I ask if I can fence some land and run my goats in exchange for milk. Yet, these same people are so single and outside the concept of community that the idea of working together is met with revulsion and excuses. They are perfectly happy to accept my excess as long as it is free (for who would try to sell their excess when it’s free to them being the commonly held thought) or even outright ask me for some of what I have worked so hard for. It reminds me of the story of the Little Red Hen.
~Little Red Hen asked for help in all her tasks, and would have been happy to recieve only a little help at just one point to let others share in her finished product (the bread) yet no one wanted to help. They were all too busy doing other things, yet when the bread was done they all wanted some. Imagine how good that bread would have looked after all the care that went into growing and threshing and grinding the grain. The smells of a carefully followed recipe to produce a high-risen, golden loaf of soft, warm bread. The Hen did not share her bread with those that did not help, only with her family that she was responsible for. The morel is you get the best things in life when you help produce them, and you reap what you sow. ~
Today, most people don’t even understand what it means to work hard instead of seeking out things to fill your time that don’t mean much later. I imagine as times get tougher it will begin to be more important to weed the garden than spend a day at the mall. Yet, many will still strive for the cheap imitations of the real things in life, and then look on in envy at those who have the real things because they were willing to work hard for tangible rewards. In communities, even those with less time and space can work together to have these good things, but the key is being willing to form those close-knit groups and stick with it. I hope someday to find myself in a community instead of being isolated while surrounded with people. I am thankful for those that are forming a community with me, even if our distances from each other are great, because we need each other. We all need someone we can ask for help. We all need to serve others as well. Together we are strong!