The prompt for today is about where we found community in the past year and where we’d like to find it in the coming year.

I have a mixed relationship with the word community.

I believe in it, truly, madly, deeply. I believe that living in connection with other people will do a lot to redress the separateness and hyper-individualism that cause so much pain in our society. I believe that knowing that there are people out there who are “your people,” whatever that means, is itself an important and fulfilling experience. And when things get really rough, there is no substitute for a community of folks willing to kick in and make lasagna or walk the dog or sit by a hospital bed.

It’s also, of course, maddening. People who are engaged in community do not, through that very action, magically become perfect people, or even perfect communicators. Engaging deeply with people brings up very-important-feeling topics of argument that would never otherwise occur to you. And holy meetings, Batman!

I have a lot of community in my life. I am incredibly lucky to have a community of friends who are the kind of people who run errands for you when you break your foot, pick you up from the airport, and tell you when they’re going to Ikea in case you desperately need some DIY furniture. This year, I am living in a cohousing community, which means I can pretty much always find someone who has or knows what I need to have or know on short notice.

I am also incredibly lucky to have not one but two communities that are centered around spirituality. I put a lot of time into both of these groups, and within each, I have a few close relationships and many, many people who I adore and rarely see. This is a different kind of community: less connected to my daily life, for the most part, but deeply tied to a particular piece of my identity and practice.

One of my personal greatest worries about community is how many of us have access only to the kind of temporary, geographically-far-flung communities that the internet, retreats, and other events provide. These communities can provide emotional support by the bucketload, which is itself helpful and important, especially for those of us who experience internal struggles as some of our most intense. But when there’s a new baby, or someone dies, or we’re aging and in need of support, I’m not sure how well they will meet our day-to-day needs. It seems like we might fall back, in those cases, on our nuclear family and few closest connections, and run into the pitfalls of a lack of community headfirst. So I wonder if we’re selling ourselves short in the long run when we focus on the intense, emotional kinds of connections over the more troublesome daily kind.

So to that end, cultivating my regular connections is the kind of community I’d like to see more of in 2011. I’m thinking about what that would look like: who I’d like to see more of, and how, and how to cultivate the kind of relationships that will sustain me and those I love through challenges of all kinds.

How about you? Who is your community? What do they do well and what can’t they do? What do you wish for?

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