The Fraying Fabric
The social fabric of our culture is more worn than we realize. Cultural and demographic shifts have altered our experience(s) of belonging, relatedness – community. Some basic assumptions of the nature of our shared lives have been frayed and torn. As we attempt to create a sense of belonging with online avatars and tribal longings, neighborhood spaces that are unpretentious, safe, welcoming, and available have become rarer and rarer. We as members, notice this absence and try to communicate with our communities and community leaders the dreams and desires for transforming our neighborhoods. But, we are faced with limited resources, experience, and the tools that are needed for creating and developing neighborhood places.
The communal soul of a neighborhood suffers in the absence of shared gathering spaces not defined by consumption such as pubs, coffee shops, and similar businesses. The ongoing reduction in places for collective belonging and restoration means there are few opportunities to connect with other members of the neighborhood. Most often, those seeking those communal experiences have to travel outside their neighborhoods, sometimes even several miles. Also, what gathering spaces there are can be membership restrictive, such as churches and schools. A school or church may offer discussion groups for instance, but they likely center around the shared needs or creeds that define the group and the space they use. And, the membership of the group may not be offering those opportunities in a public forum like a local news source or bulletin board. The reality is that many neighborhoods lack these spaces and the ones that don’t suffer that same surfeit, have been extremely lucky to have organizers and sponsors creating spaces for these shared activities or there are underutilized spaces in local churches, association buildings, schools, and other similar structures that are currently available for outside use.
An active, vibrant community is always on the look for space to create; dream; plan; celebrate the life they share; make music, write/listen to poetry; educate.
A decision to gather is always followed by the search to find the “just right” space to serve the purpose of their coming together for what they hope will happen and plan for.
Communities are faced with few choices:
- To gather in existing neighborhood space that is woefully inadequate and may diminish the experience those gathering are searching for.To go outside the neighborhood to another place that may or may not meet their needs. This choice always carries the burden of time and expense, not to mention the displacement of energy and vitality to another place.
To make a commitment to co-create communal space/place for the neighborhood that holds the possibility of meeting the greatest numbers needs for its members and stakeholders.
- To go outside the neighborhood to another place that may or may not meet their needs. This choice always carries the burden of time and expense, not to mention the displacement of energy and vitality to another place.
- To make a commitment to co-create communal space/place for the neighborhood that holds the possibility of meeting the greatest numbers needs for its members and stakeholders.
Lack of spaces: one affect
When welcoming communal space is not present in a community, friends, families, and neighbors must find those places to connect outside the neighborhood. The cost and consequence of this experience is real, manifesting in the time and expense to travel and the resulting loss of local connection. The impact is more than economic for communities and the ones who live there, it also leaves behind a vacuum of lost vibrancy and vitality. The consequence of the absence places that promote personal well-being, renewal, and feelings of belonging is isolation and disconnection.
This lack of meaningful space is endemic to our communities. The issues are shared across our society’s economic and educational strata as well as the neighborhoods and communities in which they live.
Lack of spaces: another affect
The biggest problem for most groups is the near constant search for shareable space. There may be organizations with buildings with available spaces, but those are only available at specific times and there are no options for shared communications with other groups that are using that facility. Again, that creates a silo effect where groups or members of groups are not aware of other groups or group members with shared concerns or needs.