Two quotes to begin with this time.
"We can never get a re-creation of community and heal our society without giving our citizens a sense of belonging."
-- Patch Adams
”Community – meaning for me 'nurturing human connection' — is our survival. We humans wither outside of community. It isn’t a luxury, a nice thing; community is essential to our well being."
- Frances Moore Lappe
Most people need to be part of a community for life’s necessities. Living a solo life as a hermit is not the way most humans choose to live. Most people want to be part of a community because there is something precious, positive and even predictable about being a part of a group of people who share something in common. Whether that is the place where you live, or the interests and passions that you have in common, it is good to have a sense of belonging and connection. A community is a safe place and a place where we feel safe.
Community roots and the need to belong to a community go very deep in our DNA. If we think back to pre history, the time of the early hunters and gatherers, we realise that humans were not particularly impressive as individuals.
We could run - but so many creatures could run much faster than us, both ones that we wanted to eat, and the ones that wanted to eat us. We could climb, but again far less well than many other creatures. We could swim too, but, as you guessed, much less well than a host of mammals and fishes.
Our success as hunter gatherers came because we could communicate very well and we could organise. Other creatures could indicate a lion is nearby and indicate all are in immediate danger. Our complex language abilities allowed us to use language to explain there is a lion lying in wait in the bull rushes at the south end of the big water hole two leagues to the east of here.
Now, many, many generations on, our sense of, and need for, community still lies within us. The focus has changed somewhat though. Instead of telling our clan about the bee’s nest in the big old pine tree, we are on Facebook sharing the specials to be had at the Palomino Shopping Centre (always worth checking out - 😉). Instead of a lion waiting in the Bull Rushes, it’s the road works blocking off Sturges Road.
In these modern, fast-paced and challenging times, we need to be reminded of the importance of community. Community that doesn’t just come from the local area in which we live, but community that comes from our shared humanity.
One of my great joys as an educator is seeing young children taking on board a commitment to their community - school, local and further afield. We have been focusing on protecting our oceans this past term, and clearly the message has been taken on board by many. From Ashton who pulled a plastic bag out of a storm-water grate and came and told me he’d just saved a turtle, to Jessica who insisted her parents take her to the beach to collect rubbish - at 6:30 on a rainy Sunday morning. They went, and Jessica loved them for it, as we love her.
In the Sufi tradition, it is taught that the primary purpose of life is to awaken to the essence of who we are. Once we do so, we are invited to embrace this realisation. The gift of community is that it offers each of us the motivation and support to achieve this. . . even on those rainy Sundays when we feel no fire.
Community is important, because community saves us from being alone. Much more than that, community gives us a sense of shared purpose, allows us to be part of something greater than ourselves. It brings meaning to our life, and takes us beyond the realm of self.
Some of the most selfish people in the world are also the unhappiest. Think of those who only think of themselves and tell me if they are truly happy? I believe not, and I believe it is because in the end serving self is empty and soon becomes boring and pointless.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
As I shared with you last time, we teach our children to Love to Learn to Lead. We expand that to, “I Love to Learn, so I can Learn to Lead, so I can Lead with Love”. This is community in a nutshell. It is also purpose and fulfilment in action.
Greetings to all the families and friends of Western Heights school.