A tornado over a mile and a half wide with winds of 205 mph touches down in rural Kansas, staying on the ground for 22 miles. It destroys the small town of Greensburg, leveling 95% of all structures and severely damaging the rest. A tiny town in western Pennsylvania—population just over 100—is flattened by a tornado in late summer. Yet before winter sets in, every home is rebuilt. No, this article is not about tornadoes or nature’s destructiveness. It’s about one of the things that can happen in the aftermath of a town being destroyed: community gets rebuilt.
The population of Greensburg, Kansas had been dropping steadily since 2000. After it was physically destroyed, the town council decided that all government buildings would be built to LEED platinum standards. In other words, they would all be green. Power is now supplied to the town from ten 1.25 MW wind-turbines with carbon offsets sold to various companies including Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. As of 2010 one hundred private homes had been rebuilt to 40% above code. According to the mayor, new businesses that want to locate in a green community are looking into this small town with a new identity. In the case of Adamsville, Pennsylvania, the entire town was rebuilt with the assistance of the town’s Amish community, with its culture of coming to the aid of anyone in the community who needs help. Bringing a group of people together with a common purpose creates a community.
The Human Psyche Needs to Belong
The need for community seems to be hard-wired into the human psyche. The sense of on-going connection is probably a major reason why the human species has survived as long as it has. Common goals and desires such as successfully creating safety and protection, especially for the young, were more likely to be realized in cooperative groups than alone. Knowledge could easily be passed from generation to generation in a community environment. Mentoring is an integral part of a cooperative dynamic.
In the past century the sense of community, of belonging and contributing, has broken down in the United States. People left farms and small towns for cities. They left their communities for the anonymity of the city. Accessible transportation helped create a society that moved from state to state for a better job or across the country for better weather. Families scattered. The natural communities that had grown out of rural areas were dissipated. Yet the desire for on-going connection to other people remained.
The break-down of community in the US has been blamed for a number of social ills, not the least of which is teenage gangs. Young people want to belong and where no mechanism exists for that sense to be nurtured, they create one. Unfortunately, the kind of mentoring that occurs in the gang community is destructive to any other kind of community.
New Models for Community
The intentional creation of community through mentoring to develop empowered individuals lies at the foundation of humans’ ability to continue to exist and thrive. Where community used to arise as a natural part of how people lived, now effort must be put into creating intentional community with specific purposes or missions. The results are well worth the effort.
Community through Time Banking
For example, consider time banking, a concept developed by law professor Edgar Cahn. This system involves people trading services—each hour of one member’s service is equivalent to another’s. Take two hours of time to transport a neighbor to a doctor’s appointment and later redeem those two hours for the services of a plumber. With about 270 time banks throughout the United States, members can improve the quality of their lives by being of service to others. The talents of time bank members of all ages are honored and valued. The sense of community that grows out of involvement in and commitment to the time bank system grows exponentially.
Community through Microloans
Many churches and synagogues have community building as part of their mission. Crowd funding sites now invite individuals to contribute to another individual’s or sometimes a group’s project. This creates a type of community with the benefits of involvement, empowerment and the feel good state associated with giving. For as little as $25 an individual in this country can feel a part of a family on the opposite side of the globe by participating in a microloan program. Everyone benefits from feeling valued, appreciated for his or her unique talents and connected to other people—in other words, from being part of a community.
Community through Cooperatives
One of the most remarkable efforts at community building has proven to be nothing short of amazing. In 1952 in the small town of Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain, a priest developed and implemented his ideas for strengthening the people of the region. As a result, the Mondragon Cooperatives are now the largest in the world with no unemployment and that provide continual support of education, especially in the Basque culture and language, a strong banking system and tremendous pride.
Could Community Be the Antidote for Depression?
With depression at epidemic levels in this country, community is the perfect antidote to the isolation that can both result from depression and contribute to it. When empowerment-based mentoring forms the foundation for building conscious community, a powerful force is formed. This is an energy that can assist individuals in fulfilling their potential whether they are the mentor or the mentee. Communities built with this structure can form strong alliances with each other, nationally and internationally. They can help make this a healthier, more peaceful world for everyone.
For more information about microloans, start with www.kiva.org.
For more information about the Mondragon Cooperatives, visit www.resilience.org/stories/2013-05-08/lessons-from-basque-country.
For more information about time banking, go to www.timebanks.org.
Cahn, Edgar. Time Dollars. Rodale Press, 1992.
Cahn, Edgar. No More Throw-Away People, 2nd ed. Essential Books Ltd, 2004.
C Diane Ealy holds a Ph.D. in behavioral science. This playful, fun, guide specializes in the creative process and devotes her life to facilitating personal growth and empowerment. She is the visionary author of five books including The Woman’s Book of Creativity, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Spirituality in the Workplace, Our Money Ourselves and her latest book, Your Creative Soul, is available exclusively at www.gatherinsight.com.
As writer, speaker, teacher and healer, Diane communicates her knowledge and life passion through writing, speeches, workshops, and personalized sessions. — See more at: http://www.cdianeealy.com