Growing up in a small town not too far from Dublin city I recall was much different than it is today. I remember many-a-time people would tell me that they knew who I was, not from my name, but from knowing my parents or family. It seemed to me that everyone knew of everyone else in this quaint town. It was also a treat to know my neighbours and practically live in their homes, not just in mine.
The shops in the town were full of old, yet delightfully friendly, store keepers, who always had a huge assortment of delicious sweets and other treats for the youngsters and adults alike. The garage, or petrol station, was centrally located and always had great service. There were attendants to fill up the car and another member to check your engine or oil, wash the windows or wheels, and all at no extra cost. Most people were jolly and friendly, and Sunday mass was always packed to the rafters, even though I preferred to be somewhere else – playing football or Nintendo.
It was a nice community we lived in with a spirit of doing good towards our neighbours and helping one another – not necessarily for monetary gain.
Sadly, I’ve seen it change over the years, and now I hardly know anyone who lives here, in particular my neighbours. The town has doubled or tripled in size in the last 20 years and people have moved in from all parts of the world, but I can’t see the same community spirit that was once there. And so it brings me to this point – what is unity in a community?
Building hundreds of houses, with a few services, and packing lots of people into them doesn’t equate to a real community. It’s just a place where people live.
Here is some food for thought:
‘A community is a group of people who share something in common’ - this is the most basic level and can range from a place you live to an organisation or online forum.
‘The people care about what they have in common’ - by having something in common doesn’t mean you care about it. A community cares about what they have in common.
‘People care about each other’ - Living side by side with each other does not mean you live in a community. A real community cares and respects one another, and tries to build healthy relationships.
‘People interact regularly’ - without interaction how can we really develop relationships?
The scientific community or a local community are examples where not everybody in those communities interacts.
‘People are passionate about a common purpose’ - a community needs a purpose and the people working together to fulfil that purpose, to have a sense of belonging, that they matter.
‘Have shared core values’ - values are important in a community as they set a standard by which people live, otherwise there will only be anarchy. They can help to unite a community in what they want to achieve.
‘Care about the community as a whole’ – you may live in a community or locale, but if you don’t really care about the place or people in it and do not interact in any way, then you cannot say that it’s a community.
‘Compassion, tolerance and humility’ - It’s not always going to be an easy ride living amongst other people. But if we can somehow develop three core values of compassion, tolerance and humility, then it will help to bring about a change in us and others and a unity we all most sincerely desire in this world.
Being an active member of a community is an important factor in helping to bring about a community and the unity you would like to achieve. A genuine community will bring about a feeling of belonging and togetherness. It may never be a Utopian society, however in order to be successful, each person will need to consider how they can benefit and give to the community and just thinking about what they can get or how they can benefit from the community.