"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has."
~ Margaret Mead
We live in a unique time in history. It is one rich with strife and angst, but also opportunity, joy, and creativity. It is what we choose to focus on and nurture that will carry our children through their lives. It is in the act of building and nurturing a community, or "common unity" as it were, that children (and adults) will learn and internalize that people are not isolated from one another, but rather that we are all interconnected. So what can we do about it?
Stop at Every Lemonade Stand. In our home, we have a motto we do our best to live by: Stop at every lemonade stand. We make a concerted effort to support the efforts of the children we see working towards a goal. Sometimes that means we are literally stopping at lemonade stands, sometimes we are purchasing arts and crafts a child might be selling at the market, or sharing our spare change with a child practicing his violin at the farmer's market. Sometimes it just means taking an interest in what our neighbor's children are reading. If we are going to create a culture and community that cares for our children, it has to begin with them. And we have to show them that we support their interests.
Join together. As Gandhi suggested, we must "be the change we wish to see in the world". As parents seeking to offer our kids a model of community building and active engagement with our community, we must then find ways in which to come together. If the first step to create community starts with our own community in our homes, then as a family we can do simple things, such as garden together, dine together, and share what we learn each day. From there, we can take our community out of the home. Greet and talk to your mailman each day. Try sitting on your front porch instead of playing in the backyard and see who you meet and can offer a smile to. The next time you bake cookies, bake a few extra and deliver them with your children. Find other ways to connect with the people you live close to (but may not often spend time with or know well): plan a neighborhood potluck or progressive dinner (where appetizers are served at one house, salad at the next, and so on until you get to dessert). Help to organize a block party or a multi-neighbor yard sale. The possibilities for connecting with your neighbors and other people in your community are endless.
Get Involved. Many communities are rich with outreach programs that help children feel more connected to the many different people they live amongst.
Some of the things our family has done to help connect with others in our community have included playing games with elders at a senior center and helping out at the community garden that grows and harvests food for the local soup kitchens. If you are unsure what kinds of opportunities exist in your community for such things, ask for resources at your local library or chamber of commerce. The more you can help connect your children to the needs of her local community, the more you will help to nurture a community that cares for your children.
Connect with All the Faces of Your Community. More and more these days, we are hearing about people wanting to connect with "like-minded" people, and attempting to create community that way. But it seems that in many ways, the opposite can happen, and that when we are only connecting with people we consider to be like ourselves, we are causing separation and divide from the others in our community. Herein lies the real challenge: to connect with all the faces of our community, to learn to understand each other and our multi-facetted perspectives, and appreciate each of our unique journeys so that we may travel the road together for the greater good of humanity.
I feel especially fortunate to be living in this time: one that is rich with wonder, learning, and opportunity for connection in a myriad of ways. From our home communities reaching outward, it is with conscious and deliberate effort that I believe we can create a world that is more commonly united. And nothing feels like it could be more important.