May 27, 2009

How to Build Community


Every time I see this postcard, with its cheery ’70s style, I have to pick it up and give it a read, and each time, I’m charmed by its simplicity. It taps into the place in my brain that wants to live in Arthur Read’s neighborhood and grow up to be Miss Rumphius. So many of these ideas are great and seem especially relevant (and easy to accomplish) in the summertime. What do you do to create a sense of community in your life?

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  • Sara Rose: I’m so bad at creating community in my life, because I’m such a loner. But my friends and family know our door is always open and that I always have a pitcher of iced tea or a freshly made cake to share. Other than that, we garden, visit the farmers market and make friends with all the farmers that come each week, chat up the people who work at the grocery store, go to the library 2-3 times a week, and visit parks and the campus frequently to go for walks.

    Hmmm. Maybe I’m not so bad at the whole community thing. Maybe I’m just bad at the neighbor thing?9 years ago

  • It sounds like you are amazing at the community thing, Sara Rose. How is it that you can always have a freshly baked cake around but do not eat the whole thing yourself, huh?9 years ago

  • Katya: My mother has been trying to raise me as Miss Rumphius my whole life. She all but mails me bushels of lupin seeds.9 years ago

  • Katya, My mom would plant lupins in her garden just to indulge me, so I feel you. 🙂9 years ago

  • Sara Rose: I eat quite a bit of it myself. I’m a naughty, naughty thing.9 years ago

  • Nikki: I love this. Community is so important and often times a word that feels big, overwhelming. This helps to put it in perspective.9 years ago

  • michele rosenthal: One thing I love to do is volunteer at our local Historical Society to keep rescuing the past while combining it with the present and future generations. I also love to share seeds and plants with my other gardener friends who live in my little home town. I love when friends bring over their leftover plants and seeds, I was just given a new blueberry bush and it truly makes me happier than jewels!!!9 years ago

  • Joy: Radio 2 (I am old before my time I know) has been doing a week called “love where you live” in a bid to improve community spirit accross the UK. I was planning to bake some cupcakes and take them to all the flats on my street. Well, this was the plan… I do love my neighbours though. We had a dinner together the other month and it was such a good evening xx9 years ago

  • Michele, Volunteering is a super great idea. I’ve fallen off the volunteering wagon in the last month but need to get it back into my schedule.

    Joy, Wow, this makes me think I should bake something for MY neighbors. I told a friend once I wanted to bake treats for the employees at the coffee shop nearby and she told me that was weird. Maybe since they are surrounded by baked treats all the time it’s a moot point.9 years ago

  • Rebecca: This postcard is wonderful! I need to print off a copy and put it on my fridge.

    I’ve learned a lot about community in the past 3 years, which was when I moved from a city of 370,000 to a small community of 1,200 souls that’s an hour’s drive from anywhere. While everyone was curious at first and knew who I was before I knew them (I got asked to join the local ladies’ hockey team by both a cashier at the hardware store and one of the ladies at the post office), it was a friendly curiosity. I’m naturally shy but I forced myself out of my comfort zone and now I coach girls soccer, play my cello in the community band and at some of the community variety shows, go to the public library every week (even though I work in the school libraries :), and get together with my awesome book club friends once a month. I’ll be hard pressed to go back to more urban living after this…I love small town life.

    And I love how everyone here bakes and/or gardens! They’re both so therapeutic and built for sharing.9 years ago

  • Amy C: Oh, this is a question I find myself asking frequently. In my line of work as a therapist, I have realized just how isolated we all are. In fact, I didn’t even know my neighbors until we got a dog and used that as an excuse to meet everyone around us. Now all the kids in the neighborhood come running when they see our dog Sugar, looking for big rottweiler face-kisses!

    Thank you for posting this…I’ll definitely print it out and keep it on hand for my clients!9 years ago

  • Meghan: This is lovely! It’s not weird at all to take baked treats into your favorite coffee shop to say, “Thanks!” I think gathering places like coffee shops, libraries and bookstores are very community oriented, and there’s often a friendship and rapport between the employees and patrons. I know we love it at my library when someone brings us baked goods as a thanks for finding that special new favorite book (hint, hint)!

    Amy C., I walk my dog in my neighborhood and have her with me when I sit on my front porch — it’s amazing how many people you meet when you have a cute dog with you. I also make a point of getting to know my library regulars and putting aside books I know they’ll love. And a great big smile is always a nice icebreaker.9 years ago

  • Elizabeth: Never saw that card before but it is a wonderful read. The greeting on the street is much fun. I greet people if they look happy, sad, young, old, man, woman, child, toward the grocery store or on their way home, lonely, drunk or any other shape a human being can be in. And you know what most of the time they are very surprised when they are greeted with a big smile unless they have met me before.

    Thanks.9 years ago

  • Shandell's: What a great post card, I will be print it and placing it on my inspiration board. My business is in a small town and it is great to know who everyone is.9 years ago

  • Rebecca, Your story makes me want to move! In fact, last night at a dinner party we were discussing the merits of NY versus a smaller place and one of the pros of urban living someone brought up was “the people.” You make it sound like the pros of a smaller place is the people!

    Amy C, You make me want a dog so bad!

    Meghan, I couldn’t agree more. Maybe it’s time to take some baked treats to the library! I’m so jealous of all you ladies with library jobs!

    Elizabeth, That is great. You’re an inspiration.

    Shandell’s, Maybe you should put this card in the window of your shop!9 years ago

  • Rebecca: That must have been a great discussion, Sarah! I have to say, I’m very happy that I didn’t grow up in a small town since everyone knows who’s doing what and with whom and how often. Thankfully I had my wilder days in the city. 🙂

    But yes, privacy issues aside, the people are great. It’s nice to walk down the street and know most of the people you walk by, or wander up to a softball game on Saturday afternoon and know there’ll be someone you know that you can sit with, and so on. It’s not as culturally diverse as a large city, and you can’t get fabric or naan bread on a whim, but walking out the front door on a clear night and seeing millions stars certainly makes up for that.9 years ago

  • Well put, Rebecca. Those stars kind of impart a more amazing feeling than the best fabric stores, in my opinion. 🙂9 years ago

  • michaela: hi! do you know where can i get a print of that poster?9 years ago

  • miss fae: I have a lot to say about community, given that in a way, it’s my career choice and also, my life choice. We’ll have to discuss more in person.

    megan sent me that postcard from vermont, last year.9 years ago

  • Here’s one place where you can buy: years ago

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