com·mu·ni·ty (noun): a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
Communities are made of the people, places, and things bound together within a shared space. Most of us tend to exist in multiple overlapping communities, real and virtual, but everyone’s local community is one outside the front door. It may not seem like we share much with the people around us, especially in large cities, but the neighbourhood is the one thing all neighbours have in common.
Communities can be active or passive. They can be strong or weak. How communities are planned, run, and invested in matters, but the resource common to all of them are people. Call them neighbours or nuisances, we all live our lives next to others. The mark of a healthy and active community isn’t just curb appeal or amenities, it’s the network of supportive relationships that connects us to our neighbours.
What does this look like? It starts with refusing to see community as a product to be consumed. Instead, it begins with a commitment to be present, available and proactive. What would it look like to sacrifice some entertainment hours and give time to a local organization? To participate in local government? How would our communities change if we got to know our neighbours as people and families, and not as strangers to avoid eye-contact with?
These questions have a multitude of answers. But surely treating our communities as collections of families, workers and businesses who owe something to each other could enrich our collective lives. Communities are only really alive and healthy when the people who make up the neighbourhood take the time to grow relationships.