What is community and how to build it are essential questions. So is asking what isn’t necessary for community to form. Sure, all the things I will mention can be helpful for building community, but I don’t consider them necessary.
Liking your neighbor is not necessary. Either the one who lives next door or the one on the other side of the world. Liking someone is a feeling, one that is deeply personal and subjective. It is difficult and a waste of time to try to wrangle ourselves into liking every person. Is it easier to act on behalf of someone we like? Of course. But to build a strong, thriving community, we must act on something deeper than our personal preferences.
Money is not necessary for community to form. A nod to a neighbor walking her dog, a kind word to a child, a smile at a barista brewing our coffee cost us nothing, but they go a long way toward building a sense of community. A lavish party or an evening at home playing board games with family? Community grows at both.
Proximity isn’t necessary. As I draw away from social media and focus on those around me, I’m inclined to say that being physically near someone is necessary, but I know it is not. A good friend of mine met her future husband online via blogs. I’ve participated in discussion boards with people from around the world and I felt more community there that at a dinner party. Reading books fosters a sense of community. Proximity is a huge part of community, but perhaps not necessary, at least not on the beginning.
Exhaustive details are not necessary for community. When did we start thinking that we have to know everything about everybody to consider them friends? If you asked me what I know about my Wednesday morning writing group, I would say I know their souls through their words, even though I don’t know their addresses, where they went to high school, or what they ate for supper.
If we don’t need any of the above to build strong, deep communities, what is essential?
One possibility: “…it is only kindness that makes sense anymore…” Naomi Shihab Nye, from her poem Kindness.