When I sat down to have breakfast with Dr. Carroll Rinehart, who would end up becoming one of my most influential mentors, it was early. I was just waking up and Dr. Rinehart asked me the following question:
When does the learner build community? Why? What prompts it?
I thought to myself, “Okie Dokie...we’re diving right in.” When Carroll said learner, he meant any human being no matter what industry they’re in. It could be a child, a parent, anyone. When Carroll used the word community, he meant it in a very broad manner. I, on the other hand, was thinking of the learner as only a student, and I was thinking of community as only a town or city.
I hadn’t yet considered that a learner could be anyone and that community is more about how we connect than an actual place.
Carroll, a living legend at the time in the world of education, kept asking me this question about community until I finally started thinking more openly. Today I realize that I can:
Build community with any single individual
Create community with any group
Foster community within myself… commune with my own self
I have found over the years of my own life experience that building community can be a lot like interacting with our neighbors, especially new ones. What I mean is that we often build community at a distance, being overtly careful because we’re not sure of a lot of the variables which can remain unknown. Will that community result in more positive than negative byproducts, would be one potential thought some have shared with me. When you compare that to interacting with neighbors, there is that concern of “how close do we want to get to our neighbors?
Perhaps making friends with new neighbors is less about the people and more about how we decide to connect and invite others into conversations
Back to my original definition of community. It was a narrow view of what it could be. The same could be said about defining a neighborhood. For example, at Calgary homes for Sale, you’ll see a large neighborhood which houses many neighborhoods inside it. If we define “neighborhood” very narrowly, all we need to do is look at how the neighborhood looks from the outside, the pricing of homes, etc. Nothing wrong with those variables… they’re important for sure!
What if we look at that same link above and dig deeper, by clicking on satellite view.
I did that as an experiment and I zoomed in on neighborhoods near golf courses, other near baseball fields, etc. I happen to have been in Calgary several times as a public speaker, and it’s really beautiful. As I zoomed in, the visuals gave me cues as to what kind of people lived where. It made me think about their interests, whether it was a family area with lots of kids, or older couples. What if we could find out about how friendly the neighbors were, if there were any doctors who lived in the area in case of an emergency, or who in the neighborhood was a good cook, so you could invite them over for a potluck…. Just kidding…. Actually, I like that idea, lol!
Whether you’re engaging with a new community as part of your work, communing with a new part of your own self, or making friends with new neighbors, my point is look beyond the traditional definitions of those words.
Look for depth of being, authentic interests, ask great questions, and you’ll be amazed at how friendly your personal life and professional world becomes.
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