“It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community – a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the earth.” Thich Nhat Hanh
A friend alerted me to this wonderful quote recently. It was one of several conversations I’ve found myself in during the last few weeks on the subject of community. I’m not really sure what one is as I’m at the beginning of my understanding and I haven’t yet found a suitable definition. There are many but none feels just right.
If I was to have a go with my current understanding it would be something like this;
“A group of people who are connected by invisible threads which bind them loosely in a web of love and understanding. In community we hold each other, we look out for each other, we give and receive tough love and we do good stuff together.”
That’ll do for now, but my understanding is evolving daily so by next week it’ll probably be different.
I’m a self employed person who is a full on ambivert. I need my introverted alone time but I need my extroverted team time too. When I’m working with peers or clients my extroverted needs are met, and when I’m in my office alone, my introvert is happy – most of the time. But there are times when I feel lonely, sometimes desperately so. These are the times I usually turn to twitter. It’s a place where I feel at home – where people I have met through that medium hang out, chat, post interesting stuff, inspire me. And I can watch what’s emerging on a particular day, like some kind of voyeur, or if I feel the need to connect further I can join in the conversation. Either way, my loneliness soon dissipates. This to me is community and it’s lovely. There’s no competition, just love, support and understanding – and the occasional intellectual spat or disagreement done in a largely light-hearted and humorous way.
A few years ago, fed up of being house bound when the snow came, (I live on a hill), I wrote to my neighbours – about fifty homes in total. This is the note I pushed through all the letterboxes nearby.
“DON’T READ THIS IF YOU ARE AGAINST HAVING FUN, COMMUNITY SPIRIT OR CLEARING SNOW!
HERE COMES THE SNOW!
When I was a little girl my Dad used to leave the house around 6am for work. We lived in Leeds and the winters back then were treacherous – snow, ice and howling winds – at least on our corner.
Dad would make me a cup of tea every day around 5.30am and on the days when the snow had just fallen, I would soon be “togged up” (Yorkshire phrase?) and out there with my shovel.
I helped Dad to clear the snow from the drive and then all the way up the rest of the street so that he and all the neighbours could get out safely.
We lived on a cul-de-sac and the gritter lorry almost never came – sound familiar? – so we had to do it ourselves.
We were never alone. The rest of the Dads, some of the Mums and lots of eager little “helpers” were out there too.
Last year when I was snow bound in XXXX Close for several days despite my best efforts to get out, I reflected on my childhood and wondered where that community spirit had gone.
The snow is coming, it’s an Olympic and Jubilee year and we are all no doubt having a bit of a tough time economically.
So I wondered if you would care to join in a bit of XXXX Close spirit and let’s work together to clear our way all the way to XXXX Road.
It will be cold, but only for a little while as we’ll soon warm up, it will look great when it’s done and it will feel good to have achieved it together – imagine the satisfaction!
Who knows, you might even enjoy it!
I’m up for it, are you?
My name is Helen and I live at number X.
Have a wonderful (white) weekend!”
There was an amazing response. About twenty people showed up and we cleared the snow in no time. We had a good giggle in the process too. And some of those people are now really good friends as well as neighbours. We might have nodded as we passed each other before whereas now we socialise together and help each other out. I know I can rely on them and they can rely on me too. I feel part of a community which makes me feel safe and happy.
In these times of terror, war, fractured societies and busy lives, it is easy to forget the power of connection. And it really doesn’t take much, but we do have to DO something. We need to reach out, hold and be held. And feel the love. Yes – we have to feel the love – that’s the best bit!
Until the next time…
(The picture at the top is a colour pencil drawing of one of my Buddha statues. I’m a novice at drawing and an occasional meditator, but not a Buddhist. I kind of love the idea that the next Buddha will be a community)