It’s nice to know we belong – whether it’s because we have a common interest, shared experiences or even just because we’re related by blood; feeling connected to a group of people is comforting, fulfilling and rewarding in so many ways. It also improves our overall well-being. We need a sense of belonging to reduce the anxiety and uncertainty in life.
Before the globalization and migration levels that we’ve experienced in the past 100 years or so, communities were geographic areas that were fairly well-defined and tight-knit. Usually, the church (or spiritual centres) as well as the extended family were a big part of that community. One didn’t have to guess about their sense of belonging – it was laid out before them. There are still many small towns and villages that enjoy this type of unity and kinship, but they are few and far between. Today, a community is more about fellowship, shared interests and goals.
Within our work lives, we can come across all sorts of environments. We might feel totally unconnected to our co-workers, even though we share a common goal of doing a good job, supporting the business and yes, getting a paycheck. Some work environments are a hub of social activity, with a strong sense of teamwork and affinity, while others are starker and more singularly focussed on the job at hand. Neither is right nor wrong, simply different. The goal, however, is to find the environment we thrive best in. If we’re the type of person who craves close work connections, then it’s up to us to either make it happen or find a place where it does.
Finding common ground
There are so many areas in our lives where we have the potential to be part of a community these days. For some people, their community is a virtual one – through social media, gaming, or group chats. Although they don’t see one another in person, they enjoy shared interests and experiences that keep them together.
For others, we’re often looking to grow our sense of community with in-person experiences usually in the places we know, such as at work, sports or other personal interests, school, or right in our own neighbourhoods. In today’s world of having family and friends living so far apart, it’s comforting to know that we have neighbours to rely on, although not everyone shares that sentiment. Some people prefer anonymity and are content to live a non-social life with their neighbours and acquaintances, while others are more eager for deeper or rewarding connections. We humans are a complicated lot!
Finding new connections and a sense of community may not happen overnight, but it all starts with a smile and a ‘hello’. The odds are really good that others are looking to connect as well, so it usually doesn’t have to involve a lot of effort. Simply chatting with another parent at our child’s soccer game for example can reveal if we do indeed share common values and before we know it, we’re making plans to have a team lunch or host a coffee get-together. Voila! Instant community! We’re naturally sociable people; the hardest part is just getting started. When building a community, it also involves commitment; if we say we’re going to do something, we need to come through with those promises and get out of our comfort zones from time to time. Here are a few other ways to find that sense of community or build on a connection with a group of people:
- Say yes – to experiences and invitations
- Try something new – a book club, boot camp, drama club, cooking class…the list is endless
- Be open minded – and avoid judging others
- Volunteer – your community needs you…and you need them
- Take time away from work – spend it with others outside of our day-to-day grind
- Reach out to old friends and acquaintances – there may be new adventures ahead or old ones to revisit
- Find a cause you care about – there is strength in numbers
We really do have more in common with the people around us than we think. Beyond our family or the group from work we always hang out with, we can also have rich, fun and rewarding relationships within our own little communities we’ve built together. Our connections become a web of support for all of us. Why not make a resolution to branch out a little this year? Not only will you enjoy the pleasure of being a part of something special, but others will have the pleasure of knowing you.
“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much” – Helen Keller