1. a. A group of people living in the same locality and under the same government. b. The district or locality in which such a group lives.
2. a. A group of people having common interests b. A group viewed as forming a distinct segment of society
3. a. Similarity or identity: a community of interests. b. Sharing, participation, and fellowship: a sense of community.
4. Society as a whole; the public.
5. a. A group of organisms interacting with one another and with the environment in a specific region. b. The region occupied by a group of interacting organisms.
(according to the American Heritage Dictionary)
Ah, wonderful dictionaries! When I was younger, I looked up words. Then I looked up the words within those definitions ad infinitum. A circuitous adventure that could keep me busy for an afternoon, especially if I got a thesaurus involved. The reading was a little dry but filled with authority. A dictionary gave words meaning. The simultaneous ingestion of meaning and information was a rush. I now own a gigantic dictionary purchased for a whole three dollars at the library book sale. I couldn’t believe someone hadn’t snatched it up before me.
Dictionaries are reference books, starting points, foundations, but it is up to us to play with the words, discover what they mean to us, and imbue the words with meaning, extrapolating from denotation to connotation. Here’s my attempt to do so with the word community, just free writing from the phrase “Community means…”.
Community means those around us. It means support and encouragement and presence. Community means I help, assist, serve. It means knowing names and smiling and waving. Community means invitations to block parties, holiday parties, graduations. Community means I see you, I hear you. It means I know when you’re on vacation and I keep an eye on your house. It means I let you know when I’m on vacation and you keep an eye on my house. Community means I turn the pages of music while you play. Community means empathy, trust. Community means saying “I’m sorry” and “I forgive”. It means “I didn’t care for that comment and I might take offense, but first I’ll ask you to clarify and I’ll try not to take it personally.” Community means togetherness. Community is a phone call after dark to let us know our garage door is still open. Community is a hug when needed and space when that’s needed. Community means I will not bring my phone to the table. It means cooperation and sharing. Community means…what?
What does community mean to you?