It was either 2005 or 2006. I was taking my first Urban Studies & Planning course, Film and the City. It was a sort of introductory course to Urban Planning through the eyes of film. The first movie we viewed was a Chinese film called Shower. This film introduced the concept of community and how design works with community and how community changes as design changes. There were many other levels to the film, but it was first, for our class, an introduction to this concept of community.
As a film class, one-page write ups and group discussion were par (for the course, ha ha). I was either 27 or 28 at the time of this discussion. My other classmates, or the ones in the discussion group, were in their early twenties. (It’s amazing to me how the difference of 5 years in your twenties means a lot.) We were asked, after having viewed the movie, how we would define community.
I suddenly found myself in a disagreement with my discussion group on what community is. I feel that we have many different communities. We have communities in which we select: church, certain social groups, classes we take, work place communities, and so on. Then, we have broader groups, our neighborhoods, cities, states, nations. When I was arguing for these micro communities, my classmates disagreed with me. They suggested that this idea of community was too narrow and didn’t allow for diversity. For example, I could have chosen to live in an all-white neighborhood and that would have been too singular in what I heard them arguing to actually be defined as community.
I cannot remember their exact words now, four or five years later. But, if that was truly their argument, I still, to this day have to vehemently disagree with their concept of community.
What is community then? I still believe a community is simply the circle of people with whom we surround ourselves. Whether it be our street, our neighborhood, our work place, our school, or our churches. All these places have different people, offer different things, and they serve as a community for us. A community of living, of economy, of knowledge, of spiritual growth – whatever. It’s still a form of community, and we sometimes turn to those in that community for assistance. We could look for neighborly assistance, as in, “Please, could you watch my house while we’re on vacation?” to study buddies to prayer circles. All forms offer some support if we choose to lean on them for that support. All forms can offer fun, learning moments, teaching moments, conflict and resolution.
Still, what is community? I am busy. I have a lot of interests. I cannot afford to spend my time randomly. While I appreciate random encounters for those teachable, fun moments, I have chosen to spend my time with certain people. Family and close friends. From there, I reach out to my church community, my food community, and a local mom’s group. With this local mom’s group, I subscribe to a daily email list, and have thus far attended one event. Many of the moms overlap with my food community.
What does community do? Community is there for you when you need them. Today, I hope I was there for a fellow mom. I’ve seen her name on this list a million times. I have met her exactly once, to the one event attended and organized by this mom’s group.
Today, 8 days before Christmas, she was in a car accident. No one was injured, but who’s to say how the family mini-van will fair. Although I had a front row seat, I actually didn’t see anything. I still can’t believe this happened. That I didn’t see anything. I had no helpful detail of information to share. It all happened so fast. SUV turning, me dazing, crash, call 911, tow truck pulling through, cop following, hanging up since 911 isn’t needed. Recognition. I know her. Parking the car, hazard lights on. Validation. Rolling window down, stating her name. Yes, I know her. So, I did the only thing I could think of to do. I got out of the car and gave her a hug. I only told her that I was a part of this mom’s group.
I got back in the car, went to a fellow mom’s house, she wasn’t home. She’s usually good at organizing these things, so I called her first. By “these things” I mean care packages. She was a little unsure of what to do, so I later phoned the Queen Bee of the mom’s group. She advised the other mom to call her insurance and began organizing an evening meal, while working.
Community. That’s what community is.
- New Urbanism: The New Orthodoxy? (yuriartibise.com)
- Gentrification: Not Ousting the Poor? (time.com)
- Latino Leaders Shift To Meet Needs Of Evolving Community (npr.org)
- Chicago Innovates Urban Planning with Participatory Communication (thecityfix.com)