importance of community




As a life coach, broaching the subject of community has value for clients. Where do you rank the importance of community in your life?

Are you single? Do you have a significant other? Children? Aging parents? Are you an active member of a church or spiritual group? Do you belong to a meet-up  group in an area of interest to you?

At different ages and stages of our lives, community has different meanings and levels of importance. It is valuable to analyze and acknowledge your individual need to belong to a group to give and receive support and love. As individuals, our desires vary.

Americans tend to be rugged individualists and quite independent. The idea of doing it myself without help is not a foreign one to most of us. Some cultures tend to value extended families and reaching out for help and support. Where do you fit in? What is good for you?

I enjoy television shows, such as “Gilmore Girls”, where families of all types exist and communities are formed. These communities do not only include family members. Who will bring you chicken soup if you are ill? Who do you serve when they are under the weather?

My daughter, Megan, and I were extremely fortunate to have been part of the Landstuhl Catholic Community in Germany. The impact of community was a blessing. Landstuhl was a helping community – for those who visited for a short period (many times due to a sick or injured family member) and for those who participated in the community for years. Fr. Clement Marcantonio led by example with grace and humility. I smile as I remember the help given by church members – so often totally unexpectedly. That type of generosity is not formed by attending a church service one hour a week and leaving. It is formed by the conversation before and after, by the friendships formed, by noticing when a person (especially someone alone) needed a ride or an ear, by a pastor who models compassion for others, etc. This type of community (church or otherwise) is a gift and sometimes a rare one.

I had the opportunity to spend time as a guest at a convent for mostly retired sisters in Spokane as I waited my trial. (Megan also benefited for staying there for a short time before we were discovered.) As I dealt with the legal system, I also experienced despair and intense fear for the safety of my daughter. This community of sisters gently let me know they were there for me. Several of them included me in their pastime of card playing in the evenings which was a much needed distraction. Other sisters listened to me as I began to open up and share my story. I knew or sensed all the sisters were praying for both Megan and I. Friendships formed. Prayers kept me afloat.

Twelve-step programs can offer community. As with finding a spiritual group, finding 12-step meetings where you truly become a part of may take time. Yet, once you find a “home” group, miracles can happen. : )

Oh, there have been years where I have not been part of a community or have not felt that I belonged anywhere. Even during those periods, there was spiritual support given to me. I never could deny that. I’ve always been grateful to those who prayed for Megan and I (especially when I could not) and for those that kept Megan and I in their hearts.

Trauma affects us. The abuse from our past affects us. Sometimes it is quite necessary to be alone, to be independent, to learn to trust yourself and to not be swayed by the good intentions (that may not ultimately be positive for us ) of group members or an individual. Survivors of brain washing (mind control) especially need a sense of autonomy and need to build trust in one’s own decisions and desires. Many times the help of a trusted therapist who empowers the survivor is needed. Finally though, hopefully, we all learn to depend on our own inner wisdom.

In “Grey’s Anatomy”, for those who watch it, Meredith’s husband dies. She also experiences trauma from a patient who turns violent. Many friends surround her. Yet, she has learned to be independent in her grief – raising her children, etc. She is good at it. Her therapist asks her to decide what she wants – the people there in her life or not.

That episode resonated with me. I became very good at handling grief and pain. Fortunately, I have always had one or more persons to call or write or e-mail to share my distress, despair and dreams. Yet, with all the grief and trauma, mostly the individual suffers alone and deals with the intense emotions (sadness, grief, anger) that churn within one. As a single person, (and without my child during the years I would have been raising her), I became adept at being alone.

Oh, I was never alone totally. It amazes me as I take a look back at all the support I had – friends, 12-step people, WINGS Foundation support group, therapist, pastoral counselor, religious sisters, etc. When you are going through PAIN though, life can feel isolating and desolate.

I related to Meredith in “Grey’s Anatomy” needing to decide how she wanted her life to be now that she was healed more. She was challenged to decide how she wanted the people in her life. Isn’t that what each of us would benefit from – looking at our lives and deciding how we want our lives to be now? Want to live solo? Do you want to find a community to share your love and receive love? A community can be small or large. We have choices.

Some of us still desire and even need solitude. That is okay. It is actually possible to find both solitude and community. (The sisters at the convent were true examples of persons who lived with both solitude and community in their lives.) You do not have to live in a convent to fulfill your needs or desires of community and/or solitude.

Our society is fast paced and quite mobile. People relocate. Jobs are sometimes in other parts of the country. People of all ages have to make choices to relocate or not. Many older adults retire near their adult children to help them raise their children. In this fast paced world, as a life coach, I highly recommend taking time to consider the importance of community to you. Are you a person who naturally and easily finds or form community no matter where you are? Or not?

I am available to examine the topic together. Contact me as your life coach.

If you desire, may you find yourself connecting with others in love, support, and joy!