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The Almighty We – the price of community

I learned at an early age that everything comes with a price. Everything costs something, be it cash or energy. Every bite of food had to be grown and processed, every asset built and maintained. In my world, there is no free lunch and for as far back as I can remember, I’ve done my best to earn my keep.

I’ve written about ‘who we are’ and ‘what we’re doing’. Now I’d like to chew on ‘how we contribute’. The wealth of a community is measured in assets. Orchards, roads, livestock, infrastructure, know-how, and labor all qualify as assets. Intentional communities usually build common areas which are maintained collectively. Some have a budget and managers. This is not the case with us. We have common areas owned by us all. Many of us are landowners and therefore have sovereignty over our property. We all own our time and energy. Sharing these assets is how we make our neighborhood feel like community.

Bob and I have a nice open floor plan, so we often host potlucks. Tami and Lyle share several miles of wooded trails which Lyle selflessly maintains with Kubota and chain saw. Alisa has created a farm, and a space for workshops and gatherings. Stuart pops in with vegetables, Bob mows over at the school, Chefs Whitney and Kabui are always cooking up something, and Hope often shows up with floral arrangements from her gardens.

When Bob gets too old to mow, the school will find another volunteer. Jason and Haruka used to provide the neighborhood with fresh produce. Now we’ve got two new farms. Maybe someone will move in who knows how to fix engines. Our arrangements evolve organically as people come and go, grow up and leave, age, and get sick. Fortunately, we have multi-generational appeal. The old folks need the young folks and vice versa. Still, there are no guarantees this neighborhood will be working together to create community 50 years from now, or even 20. And that’s fine with me. I am pleased as punch to contribute to the collective enrichment of this group of people here and now. It feels good to belong and to be needed and that’s enough for me.

Each individual decides how much to contribute. Sovereignty is a double-edged sword. I love the freedom to do anything I choose on my property, but may not appreciate what my neighbor does on theirs. Harmony demands we accept, without judgement, a myriad of lifestyles. It matters how we regard one another. It’s not enough to share. We need to be nice.

Happily, we hum along in harmony most of the time, getting things done despite lack of budget or hierarchy. The desire to belong motivates us to interact, to share our assets, and give of ourselves. There is no set price of admission in our village. The price of community is involvement, and how much we pay up to us.

More musing on community:
The Almighty We – Proximity
The Almighty We – Expectations

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

3 replies on “The Almighty We – the price of community”

This is great…and you know what, Camille? I may never have learned this if it weren’t for you. Meeting you in Nicaragua in 2005 changed me for the better. I wanted to know about your lifestyle and eventually, did it myself. I like what small communities represent vs. the city of 2 million people. I look forward to meeting people and finding out what they do…and how we can help each other. I love talking with “the oldies” because they know so much more about gardening and the area than I do. I always try and learn from them and often defer my questions TO them instead of Uncle Google. I like giving away more than what I need and people like to trade what they have an abundance of as well. It just feels good. So much better than not knowing the guy’s name across the street after 5 years of living in the same place.

The price of community is not always an easy one to pay, but it’s critical to be able to realize what the price is, and then pony up. I love the community on the Bend/Burrow so much for having conscientious members that get what that price is, and are more than willing to pay it. We love and miss you guys!

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