The Gift of Community
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** This post is part of a 14 day series. To read more of my “The Gift of…” posts, scroll to the bottom of this post for links.
When my husband and I got married almost two decades ago, he moved me to A Certain Small Town. I had not previously lived in a small town and wasn’t prepared for a lot of what I encountered.
However, all of the oddities were normal to my husband because he had lived in A Certain Small Town his whole life.
You can probably see where this is going.
Let me tell you about one of our first newlywed spats. I remember it so very clearly. My husband had left to pick up a few items at the grocery store—just a couple blocks away from our Main Street home—and he didn’t return for an hour and a half.
An hour and a half, you guys.
I was sure he’d died.
Or been kidnapped.
Or run off with another woman.
When he finally returned—without so much as an inkling he’d done something wrong—I freaked out at him.
“Did you forget where we live?” I yelled.
“No. I ran in to some people at the store and stopped to talk.”
“Stopped to talk? For all that time?” I said.
He nodded, then looked at me like I had three toes growing out of my shoulder.
You guys, this is something people do in a small town. They stop and talk because they know someone in every aisle of the grocery store.
Having grown up much closer to the cities, this was a completely foreign concept to me.
I didn’t get it at the time, but you’d better believe I get it now.
Community means support.
Community is a good thing.
Community means you’re not wandering aimlessly. You have something to which you belong.
Community means you’ve got people who know you. Who celebrate with you. Who mourn with you.
People who “get” you.
People you can help.
People you can look to for help.
At a recent local fundraiser, someone nudged me and asked, “so, how do you know the family the fundraiser is for?”
I didn’t. I’d never actually met them. Their faces, plastered across the fundraiser’s flyers, were sort of familiar to me; I’d probably bumped into them at the feed store or the grocery store.
But their family was part of our community. So I didn’t really need to “know” them to feel that I knew them.
So that’s why I was at the silent auction, bidding on items I didn’t need.
Because as a community, that’s just what you do.
But what about self-sufficiency?
There is a lot of talk in the homesteading and prepping communities about being self-sufficient. And while I understand the purpose—being able to take care of your own; not needing to depend on anyone else—it always sort of rubs me a little bit the wrong way. Sometimes the conversation becomes less about being able to provide things for your family and more about becoming a hermit and moving to the woods because you don’t need anyone because everyone else in the world is stupid and lazy.
Yes, being able to take care of your own is awesome. But what ever happened to being able to take care of others? And—before you freak out— I don’t mean in a why do I always have to support people who don’t do their share? sort of way, but more like Bob and Mary are down on their luck so I’m going to bring them some stew and see if they need help with chores.
Helping Bob and Mary means you’re a decent human being who is part of a community. And if you move to the woods because you hate all people, you can’t help Bob and Mary.
We’re made for community. Even a self-sufficient introvert can be found researching online communities to join in order to discuss and learn and communicate with people who live and believe as they do.
Individualism has its place. It’s nice to know who you are and what you are capable of alone, but it’s also nice to know that someone has your back.
Or that you have someone else’s.
Do we choose our community?
With the internet, we have so many options for choosing or creating our own communities. The internet can bring the world together, and there are endless options of places to fit within it.
But I think it’s interesting to consider the fact that not so long ago, that option wasn’t available and you were bound to the community that physically surrounded you.
100 years ago, people had to do what they could to get along with their neighbors. Because, really—who else were they going to talk to? Especially when the only time they had to talk was when they weren’t doing chores, and they didn’t have the means (or time) to go on extended trips.
Your community might be made up of the people around you or it might be made up of people online. I think both have value. It’s safe to say that I’ve learned a ton about homesteading from various online communities I’m a part of, and that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the knowledge and friendship I’ve gained within them.
But it’s also really awesome to head to the farm store and be able to talk with people there. Or walk across the dirt road and hang out with my awesome neighbors.
Be part of a community. Put yourself out there. Be willing to give…and receive.
Community is a gift.
I often think back to that first spat about the time my husband spent at the grocery store, and it makes me chuckle.
See, now I’m the one who takes an hour and a half at the grocery store because I stopped in the middle of the aisle for a chat with someone.
Because now I usually know someone in just about every aisle.
It’s good to be part of a community.
A community is quite a gift.
THIS POST IS PART OF A 14 DAY SERIES, WRITTEN ACROSS BOTH SITES THAT I RUN.
Gift #1 — The Gift of an Open Door
Gift #2 — The Gift of One of Those Days
Gift #3 —The Gift of a Dog’s Friendship
Gift #4 — The Gift of Mess
Gift #5 — The Gift of Our Silence
Gift #6 — The Gift of Routine
Gift #7 — The Gift of Community
Gift #8 — The Gift of Three Things Unsaid
Gift #9 — The Gift of Perspective
Gift #10 — The Gift of Being Real
Gift #11 — The Gift of a Bowl of Corn
Gift #12 — The Gift of Encouragement
Gift #13 — The Gift of Unanswered Prayers
Gift #14 — The Gift of Actually Listening