Monday, May 31, 2010

A True Community

I understand Facebook’s place, but I have never been a huge fan of it. I do believe in online communities as a start which is why I write my blog and send these emails because, eventually, I will find a way to connect many of you more personally.

The reason I don’t have a deep love for online communities by themselves without “live” connecting is because, to me, they are not true communities.  They are ways to connect until you have time to really connect.  For me, connecting is talking to someone on the phone or, better yet, seeing them in person.  There is really nothing to take the place of the intonation in someone’s voice or the expressions on their face as they are telling you a story.

Today, I realized why I feel so strongly about this issue.

I was involved in a centennial celebration for my old home town.  Part of the celebration was by way of a parade.  There were boy scouts, girl scouts, elementary, middle, and high school students (and their teachers).  There were ex-mayors, the current mayor, and a congress woman, not to mention parade participants of every shape and form (including my dog).  All in all, the parade was sweet because it wasn’t about being rich or successful, it was about being part of a community.

I was born and raised in this town and so was my mother.  My children attended the schools there as well.  As I walked the parade route, I saw friends from every decade of my life.

As I left the parade, I walked the same route that I walked from the time I was in second grade until high school (from the school to my old house).

Now, you might think that I grew up in the midwest somewhere in a small town.  I didn’t.  This town is a suburb of San Francisco, but it felt like Main Street, USA.

The reason I don’t love Facebook is because I can’t see my community.  The connection that you make with people in real life can’t exist online.  Online connections can supplement the relationship, but the true relationship is sharing ups and downs in person with those that you love.

I am grateful beyond belief that I had the opportunity to live in the same place for most of my life and for at least the first 20 years of my children’s lives.  Long ago when my childhood seemed chaotic and confusing, the community I grew up in offered me safety and stability.  Friends, teachers, and other families were always there for me and I knew I could depend on them.  I know that is not always the norm, and for that, I will always be incredibly thankful.

It reminds me that there is no substitute for a “real” community, one with friends and family that form the support that everyone needs to go through life.  Online communities and networks can help, but you just can’t have 500 close friends.

What I was reminded of today is that we can never be too busy to connect with our family, friends, and our community.  This bonding process necessitates time and effort to keep the relationships alive and well, but they are the most important things we have.  There is no way that money or job status or any other “thing” can ever take the place of a true community.

The close knit relationships that we create and maintain over the years are truly the foundation for a healthy life.  I was reminded of that today when I walked back to my car passing “my old house” from “my old school" and I remembered all the people that loved me and were so kind to me.  So many of them are still part of my community today and I am eternally grateful for that.