How to Create an Ideal Community in One Word

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Memorial Day Flag Planting 010Many of you have seen me in my many community incarnations throughout the years. I’ve been a lector, a director, a Committee Chair, a trustee, a Cubmaster, an Assistant Scoutmaster, a Board Member, a coach, a mentor, a community representative, and who knows what else in the various community organizations I have been so blessed to have been allowed to participate in. My favorite role, however, was simply that of “member.” In serving at that capacity – and much to the chagrin of group organizers everywhere (are you reading this Renee?) – I often delighted in playing the role of gadfly. It was so much fun. I got to be a free thinker, pulling together lessons learned from all the activities I’ve been a part of to come up with challenging and, hopefully, insightful suggestions. The best part about it: I never demanded people do what I suggested. It was a costless exchange of ideas. (Some might call it “brainstorming.”)

But those tales are for a future commentary. This week explores another favorite topic of our readers (whether they know it or not) – The Andy Griffith Show. OK, so it’s not really the show itself, but the community ideal it has come to represent. This civic archetype is ingrained in our culture. People needn’t have ever watched the goings on in the fictitious Mayberry to understand it. It’s classic Americana.

What is this “Ideal Community” of which the title refers? To allude to a more recent television series (but one still long ago ended), it’s a place “where everybody knows your name” (bonus points for those you go to the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel FaceBook page under the post “Carosa Commentary Trivia Question” and enter the name of this famous series, the name of your favorite character, and why that character is your favorite).

Although we’re a half century displaced from Mayberry (which itself was probably close to a half century displaced from the time it aired in), we certainly have the classic physical components of small town America. Just drive through any of the villages in our coverage area and you’ll discover what I mean. Heck, this time of year, if you add a little lake effect snow, you’d be hard pressed not to image at least a hint of Bedford Falls when driving those motorways.

While the architectural streetscape unquestionably evokes “community,” it’s merely a superficial element. After all, those buildings, though they look nice, don’t help you remember anyone’s name.

That, my dear reader, is the operational definition of “community ideal.” We all dream of being a part of something. For many (particularly the young), one form of this dream is to be a part of something big (think George Bailey’s desire to lasso the moon). For many more, however, (particularly, those who have come to an understanding that there’s more to life than lassoing the moon), the dream means being part of something small (think George Bailey after Clarence works his magic).

It’s a place where everybody knows your name. It’s a place where everybody has your back. It’s a place where everybody smiles, where everybody is glad to see you, where everybody likes you for who you are. At the very least, we call this place “family.” At the very best, we call this place “community.”

So, what does it take to create this idyllic place?

It all comes down to one word: Join. Our constellation of communities offers plenty of opportunities to be a part of a cozy group of people who share your interests. Whether you’re interested in service (Rotary, Kiwanas, Lions), spirit (churches), the past (historical societies), business (chambers), helping others (emergency services), or almost anything else, there’s a group you can join to realize the fruits of that interest.

And once you join one group, you’ll find it easier to join another, and another, and another. You’ll find that joining takes a lot less time than what you might this.

And it’s fun.

And, in the end, you’ll know everybody’s name and everybody will know your name.

Admit it, you’re smiling just thinking about it!

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