“C” words continually pop up in conversations about community; they circle my brain when I’m falling asleep, and dance in my mind before dawn. I’m awash in C’s! So, I decided to pick seven (my lucky number) and talk about what they mean to me.
First off, there’s Conflict. I want to believe conflict should never happen, and I don’t like dealing with it when it does. But, I have no choice but deal. Like small weeds in a garden, little conflicts quickly grow into unresolvable differences when left unaddressed. I know what my yard would look like if I didn’t diligently smother poison ivy and uproot sweetgum seedlings. Or maybe it’s like fixing a hole in a boat, as soon as it begins to leak. Anyhow, you get the picture. Best nip it in the bud, by speaking up and working out a solution.
Clarity. Let’s be clear, this is essential to everything from navigation (where am I headed?) to baking (am I making cookies or bread?) Clarity is especially important when working towards a common goal. First, I need to understand my own needs, goals, and expectations, or risk getting swept away by the energy of the group. Second, I need a clear picture of what we are trying to accomplish. Only then can I pick up my oars, assured I’m paddling in the right direction.
Communication. I once heard someone say, “You can’t over communicate,” and I believe this is true. I don’t live in a void, so I owe it to the people around me to be straight-up about my intentions. Likewise, I need to listen to what they are saying, and ask for clarification on what I don’t understand. Good communication means asking myself who might want to know what, and provide them the information. And it requires that I say what I’ll do, and do what I say.
Compassion. I’m continually surprised to find that not everyone thinks like me, or has the same standards, values, and needs. You’d think I’d be used to this by now! In some circles, I feel like I’m sitting in a canoe surrounded by yachts. In other company, I risk swamping a flock of rubber rafts. Either way, I need to paddle my own canoe. In the interest of harmony, I vow to allow others to be different. Compassion is the opposite of judgment.
Compromise. Well, this is not a popular word in the land of “Just Do It!” I was bottle fed the American Dream, and reached maturity in an era of consumer-enabled isolation. Community was something only needy people needed. Come to find out, I do need community, and it turns out the price of admission is compromise. I yield some aspects of my vision to support the vision of the group, a little privacy to belong, and a bit of time for the satisfaction of working towards common goals. And I’m continually impressed at how richly rewarded I am for my small concessions.
Commitment is the fuel that keeps me in the game. Without it, I would quit paddling with the first wave. In 1996, Bob and I got a taste of community in the steamy jungles of Belize. We realized the power of being connected to both the land and its inhabitants. Thirty years later, we moved to Moncure to recreate that connection and made a commitment to our neighbors at The Bend.
Conviviality. I saved the most important C for last. Potlucks, living room laughs, long walks through the woods, drinks on the deck, swimming parties, dance parties; these are all great ways to celebrate community. And then there’s the sublime; random encounters on driveway and trail, beaming smiles and outreached arms, or simply a knowing nod acknowledging an unspoken contract to enjoy each other’s company and have fun.
Many of my seven C’s sound like work, and it’s true – I like to earn my rewards. I’m a person who believes in work before play, and dinner before dessert. And sometimes, I get so mired down in earning, I forget to celebrate the rewards. So, as a reminder to myself, here are some of the benefits of community: companionship, contentment, connection, comfort, and camaraderie. So many C words!