community, practically

I’ve been writing about community this week, and I’ve been so encouraged through the process. Community has meaning — oh, so much meaning! — and we need it now more than ever. We need to say yes to it and treat it as an adventure, even when it’s far from perfect.

But practically speaking, how do we find community? How do we build community? How do we make connections if we’re new in town . . . or maybe we’ve been in town for quite a while and want to make connections anyway? How does community become a part of daily life?

Ten ways to build real community:

1. Say yes. When you’re offered an invitation, say yes. Yes, it’s scary. No, you’re not perfect. Yes, it might suck/be boring/be lame/be tiring. No, they may not fall in love with you immediately. But say yes anyway. Really, say yes anyway.

2. Do something new. Visit a new museum. Buy your coffee at an off-the-beaten-path coffee shop. Show up at a networking group. Go on a blind date (if you’re married, don’t do this). Try a new fitness class at a gym or the YMCA. Step the heck outside your comfort zone, and you may meet someone who’s doing the same. And then stay in touch with those you meet.

3. Give back. Volunteer for an organization that makes your heart pound a little faster. Become an advocate, and you might make friends with other advocates passionate about the same cause.

4. Make a connection through something you already rock at. Walk some puppies or cuddle some kitties at an animal shelter, if you’re a pet person. Participate in a book club at the library, if you enjoy reading. Cook food for a homeless shelter, if you’re good in the kitchen. Tutor some kiddos, if you’re an educator or just love learning. You may be able to build community with others who have that same ability.

5. Cook something and don’t eat it alone. That’s all throwing a dinner party is, really. Invite a few people you know, and ask each guest to bring a friend. Ask plenty of questions and get to know the new friends. And if cooking really isn’t your thing, order Chinese takeout and open a bottle of wine. People will love it.

6. Throw a potluck. Pick a few people from each walk of your life — a few from work, a few from school, a few from your neighborhood, you get the idea — and invite them all to bring food to share. You’ll get to introduce people and help them build connections. I recommend a good soup party.

7. Celebrate something — anything. Maybe it’s a friend’s birthday, maybe you’ve been at your job for a year, maybe the flowers you planted three weeks ago are still alive, maybe someone is having a baby, maybe it’s your anniversary. It doesn’t really matter what; just celebrate it. Invite someone you know to do something to commemorate it. Get drinks, grab breakfast, go roller skating. Real community happens when we rejoice together.

8. Make someone smile. Comfort someone who you know is facing difficulty and could use a hand. Drive someone to his or her doctor appointment. Watch the kiddos while mom and dad go on a date. Double the next dinner you cook and bring the second batch to your neighbor who lost her job. When times get tough, sometimes friends run. To build community, stick around. 

9. Say thank you. Send a thank you note if someone is extra-sweet to you. Nothing elaborate, just a Hey, You! Thanks for inviting me to ___. I had a really great time. Hope to see you again soon! Love, Me. Or send an email, if that’s more your style.

10. Love people. Love them well. Community doesn’t happen overnight; it happens when we trust people with ourselves and love our friends as well as we can. Mistakes will happen, guaranteed. Community continues when we brush ourselves off and say we’re sorry and keep at it, together.

This week, I’m blogging about community — what it means to me, how I’ve found it, why we need it more now than ever and how you might find it also. I’d love to hear your stories of community.


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