Building Community

One of my favorite nonprofits is Habitat for Humanity. The people that participate in that program are part of a larger community than most people realize. There’s something cathartic about helping someone build a home meant to last for them and their families. When you watch a person who never thought they would be a homeowner fulfill their dreams, it’s incredible to watch them flourish. I remember seeing so many young faces light up at the prospect of having their room. Many children that grow up don’t have that luxury. To watch them get something as priceless as their room is something words cannot begin to describe. Watching a family struggling to live in impoverished conditions finally get their own home is an incredible feeling of joy. The men and women who have taken part in the program have established themselves in a unique community.

Whenever people find like-minded individuals to support a cause or a group, there is this overwhelming feeling of pride. People have the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s life. When I worked with the Empowered Girls of North Carolina, one of the things that I found so refreshing was that this program gave numerous opportunities to young girls in STEM futures. Some of the girls who went through the program started as timid, shy, insecure, and lacking self-esteem. To look at them now, you’d never know because many of them are leaders. A few of the girls now have their Doctorate in Education and other programs. They are the new leaders who are giving back to their communities.

Communities are what we make them. We have the power to instill changes for the positive or negative depending on our actions. Many of us have church communities affiliated with and do many different volunteer opportunities around our community. One of the groups that my church is very active with is our local fire station. There is a certain camaraderie that exists with firefighters, police officers, EMS personnel, and the medical community as a whole. They endure so many different scenarios that most of us cannot begin to comprehend. They’ve witnessed some of the most horrific accidents and tragedies and given everything they had so that their communities could continue to thrive. If you look at the men and women that perished helping to rescue those in the 911 attacks, you can begin to understand a little of what I’m saying.

And then you have communities that center around the youth. Many societies consider youth to be the core of the growth potential. When our pastor first came to the church, he spoke about how the youth were the now, not the future. I remember it struck me as strange because I had never thought about it in that context before, but he’s correct. I have cousins who have children that I’ve never met, and to me, the time has not gone by until I realize that they’re already almost in their double digits of age, and I’ve never met them. Time flies before we all know it. It’s because time passes so much that communities are constantly evolving with changes. The kids who are kids today won’t be considered kids within a few years. The cycle goes on and on. But the needs of the youth change consistently. Technology has made it so that the conditions are changing so rapidly that many parents can’t keep up because they can’t understand their children’s homework.

If you want an example of this, I’ll be more than happy to provide one. Some kids attend my church whose parents speak about how difficult their homework is to figure out. With covid, the parents have had to become the teachers in many situations, and the classroom settings have filtered down to home internet usage. Some of these parents had to work from home, teach their kids and found themselves unprepared for the lessons these kids had to take. Look at the communities where people are helping each other get through these difficult days. Classes are not only for students but rather for all of us to digest.

Homelessness has another community of its own that most of us do not understand. Many of us cannot imagine what it’s like to sleep outside with no protection. We usually don’t have to worry about going through dumpsters to find food to eat. Most of us have a shelter that protects us from the elements of storms like rain, snow, ice, sleet, hail, and extreme weather conditions. It’s hard to understand how much the homeless men, women, and children face, but there are communities where these situations are everyday occurrences. When I visited Seattle years ago, I was stunned to see how rampant the homeless community was. People were camped outside the train stations, along with different lawns, to have a place to sleep. This act was in the middle of July where the temperatures in North Carolina were almost in the hundreds. Yet, Seattle was in the seventies, but the situations and scenarios that people endured were not only accurate but alarming. I saw so many panhandlers begging for money in a short amount of time. Homelessness exists all over, but there are some areas where it is more plentiful than others. The people who genuinely need help are often mistaken by those who are asking for handouts. There are some panhandlers in our current community who I know are not homeless. People have seen them drive expensive cars, and they go to work by standing on the street corner all day because they can make more money on a street corner than they can in an actual job. It’s those kinds of folks who give Panhandling a lousy name. It’s become challenging to know which cases are legit and which ones are scamming others.

I touched on this topic earlier, but what about students? The colleges and University systems have suffered over the last couple of years. Many students have not had the advantage of being able to network or utilize services. They have had to learn new ways of correspondence. They’ve had to learn to reach out in their communities in ways that were never previously discovered. Grocery stores and other restaurants have expanded programs to use different services. Delivery services and carry-out programs have become more prevalent during covid. I can remember when getting food delivered to my job was unheard of because it wasn’t an option. Covid changed that because many places began to offer delivery so that they could stay in business. Businesses had to learn to adapt to come through for the communities. Otherwise, they might as well fold.

So when we talk about building the community, we’re talking about helping each other. We find ways and resources to help each other not only in business but in life. I know people who have recently gotten certified in professional fields that have their demons to fight, yet they are fighting a battle each day to show others that they aren’t alone in their community. Mental illness conversations are becoming more common in various communities. The best part about this is we all have to learn to be there for each other and help where we can. Building community isn’t just about the money; it isn’t about the building itself. It’s about the foundation and what we build on it. And the best part about all of this is that it’s also about connections with one another. Our lives are not only fragile, but they’re also challenging. Sometimes we need to have honest conversations with each other about sensitive topics. No child should ever fear shootings in their school. Yet, in many communities, this is a reality. But the best part about this reality is that we are aware of what’s happening. That’s only part of the solution. Does the difficulty become part of how do we fix it? There are no easy answers and solutions.

I hope you can find ways to contribute to the communities you feel good about because life is too short. Figure out where your passions lie and go from there. Once you find what’s important to you, you can discover that you can bring tremendous contributions to other groups. We all have specialized skills. You might find that you can improve on specific skills by putting yourself out there in the world. Being open to change and new experiences is a key to creating and building stronger communities. Something tells me that all of you are changing communities for the better. You read the blogs and help support each other through difficult times, and I’m grateful for the support you’re all giving me. I don’t always respond to the blogs that I read, but I read many of them. I’m grateful to be part of this community and value the feedback you all give me. In many ways, many of you are helping me through some rough days. You’ve become a community that I can depend on during those rough patches as well as the joys. So as you enjoy this day, I hope you find ways to experience a lot of love in your community and learn as much as possible. Have a great day, everyone.

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