Research Matters

My Definition of “Community” for Imagining America 2011 Conference (word limit)

I believe that community is constituted through stories. Four stories about my understanding community:

Community – an attitude and orientation: Framed by cubicle walls and the front desk, the office I work in looks similar to any other at a university. What makes it a community is its residents’ attitudes. Every staff member is woven together, mutually indebted through help offered, requested, and received. Abundance, not scarcity— of time, energy, and compassion—is the operating default.

Community – a ritual and practice: Every Sunday morning, my housemate and I made breakfast and baked bread to share. This ritual allowed space and time to deepen our relationship. It also became an open invitation to welcome others into our space.

Community – an organization of inclusion and exclusion: All communities have boundaries, but some invite while others exclude. A good community is sustainable in the face of movement, but through openness, grows kinder, broader, and more compassionate.

Community – a location and place: Living on a farm, I experienced community of location: our lives centered around the land. Also a place: as a teenager learning to write creatively, my closest community was a message board that provided a welcoming, supportive place for growth.

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