This week: CommunityEdited by: Kittiara
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Finding a community of like-minded people can make a big, positive difference. But it isn't always easy...
This week's Spiritual Newsletter is all about finding that group of people we feel at home with.
It’s no great secret that I am not the most extroverted person in the world. I have always enjoyed hanging out in my own imaginary little realm. Perhaps this is partly because I was 15 years old when my sister was born, so for that first decade-and-a-half I was an only child. I lived a ways away from school and from my friends. Most of our neighbours were elderly people. And both of my parents had jobs – I was one of those latchkey kids. I didn’t mind. I loved to read, and to listen to music, to write, to draw and, indeed, to daydream.
I did have friends at school. There was a time in high school when I was even somewhat popular. I had a good group of friends, and we went here, there and everywhere, and it was a lot of fun. That was, until I was elected class president and some of it came crashing down. It seemed that having to stand in front of the class every day in order to address my peers and remind them of homework and upcoming tests and so on was too much for me. I felt drained and anxious and had to take a step back. And after high school you’re not surrounded by your group of friends every day. People – mostly – drift apart, and it becomes harder to make new friends and to keep them because of all the many things that make up adult day-to-day life.
I think that it is fair to say that as an adult it is difficult to find that sense of belonging, that sense of community. I know that I am far from the only person who struggles with it. Too often I hear about people who have lived somewhere for years on end, who have never even spoken with their neighbours! I do have some nice neighbours. Unfortunately, I also have some deeply unpleasant neighbours and I can’t wait to get away from this street, hopefully to somewhere surrounded with fields and woods and no immediate neighbours at all. Still, I value having friendly people nearby and I like to think that I am a decent neighbour as well. I don’t mind taking in parcels for others, or lending out tools, or helping out if and when I can.
Some people are fortunate enough to live in pleasant neighbourhoods. Some have found that the pandemic has created a new support network in their local area. Most often, though, people seek to create communities based on such factors as hobbies, or interests, or faith.
I have never found a faith-based community that made me feel that sense of belonging, but my gran’s made a big difference to her, as did my great-aunt’s and great-uncle’s. My grandfather founded his own faith-based community. Churches, mosques, temples, gurdwaras, all open their doors to welcome those who seek the company of others so that, together, they can learn and grow, share and support and, of course, practice their faith. Sometimes I think that it would be nice to have that kind of bond.
Not everyone can physically join groups of other people, however. In this interconnected world there are those who live extremely isolated lives. This can be for a variety of reasons. Some people are even more introverted than I am. Some live with severe social anxiety, or agoraphobia, or physical limits that make it difficult to socialise. Some people’s work schedules place serious limits on their ability to participate in regular gatherings. This is where the Internet can help. Wherever you travel online you’ll find a multitude of communities based upon a multitude of interests and activities. Whatever you are into, there will be others out there who love it, too.
Sadly, one must be cautious. Not every online community is friendly and welcoming. There are places online that are definitely not safe. I have visited places that turned out to be filled with bullies, scammers, racists, misogynists, homophobes, and received some rather unpleasant and pretty serious threats along the way. This is far from a unique experience. In fact, it is depressingly common.
There are some good communities out there, though. This is one of them. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t have remained a member for 17 years. There are many good things about Writing.Com, but one that I really like is that it doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert – this place caters to both. You can be as active and involved as you want to be. You can just relax in your portfolio when you need to recharge your batteries. You can create your own groups, you can jump right into various contests and activities, you can come up with your own… You can be you. And that’s pretty special.
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Wishing you a week filled with inspiration,
The Spiritual Newsletter Team
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