Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Sense of Community

And it's missing.
Watching a National Geographic documentary last evening, I suddenly realised what was missing in my Life.
A sense of community outside of my home.
The story was set around the famous "Brickyard", and involved the generations of people drawn to Car Racing because of their familiar ties to the sport.
I had a moving childhood - 32 homes, and 16 schools before my 16th. birthday.  I have no friends from my early past, and precious few from my immediate one.
Four years ago, my family moved for the fifth time in fifteen years, and while by no means as potentially unsettling as my childhood, it is still something that has impacted negatively on my children.
I did this without realising that I was, in all probability, unconsciously duplicating my early childhood behaviour.
We have been here in the same neighbourhood now for over four years, but we don't "belong".
I don't know the names of any of my neighbours.
Our street has speed bumps and signs indicating "local traffic only", but foreigners run up and down all day and night.
I walk 5 to 10 k's a few days a week, and I think I know the neighbourhood reasonably well, but I could't name more than three or four streets, two of which I live on the corner of.
We have a local fair, and local "events", which as a family, we have avoided like the plague.
My children went to an excellent school locally, but they only have a handful of friends from that time.
What's gone wrong?
We have no sense of belonging, or shared identity, no sense of familiar.  We have all grown up in our own worlds of interest, and none of them connect or intersect with the outside community we live in.
On reflection, I think that is a sad testimony to the modern era.  We would rather enjoy a virtual experience (did I mention we have at the last count 13 computers, and 4 gaming devices in the house?  And that excludes 7 smart phones, and three iPods) than get out of our comfort zone and interface with real people.
Even my language is technospeak!  Interface - used to be "meet and greet".
Is community just something that evolved from our tribal roots, merged into our Camp, Village, Town, and City phase, and is regularly regurgitated on TV by an American localised point of view?
Or is it something different - a real sense of belonging - recognition as part of a whole socio-economic pattern bigger than the individual?
What really is a "sense of community?"
Yesterday standing in a que waiting to see the latest filmic marvel with my family, I noticed that in the three or four hundred souls surrounding us, very few were what you would have expected to see just a generation ago.  It is obvious that we are cross-mingling both nationalities and personalities, from literally all over the planet, at a fairly fast clip.
I live in a very strong, two-generation family environment, where the youngest is an early entry to the Conservatoire, the next in line will go to a Vet-Science Collage next semester, and the eldest is in her third year of Science.
My wife is a brilliant photographer, whenever the mood takes her.  She can bring to Life the most incredible elements we see every day, but look through in our rush to nowhere.
This is my community.  And I love them all to bits.  But what will it take for me to connect with the wider out-there-in-the-streets community?
People tend group themselves by their shared interests and attitudes, and are rarely if ever motivated by what I want.  So what will the breakthrough be?
I have complained many times to my wife that "I don't belong" anywhere.  I tried the golf club, but they were all too old, in both years and attitude.  Can't play tennis anymore, no one in the family has the time for it.  I'd rather walk than ride a bike.  What to do?
How do you go about getting into your local community?
As I look out my window, there are birds sitting on the fences of my neighbours.  I feel more connected to them than I do to the occupants.
Maybe it's just me?