Monday, June 23, 2008

Community: Back to the B.A.S.I.C.S.

Announcements at the end...

It's official.  Summer is here and I love it!  Days are long, the sun shines, and nights are filled with neighborhood kids running around while parents catch up after a long, dark winter.  When I was a kid, we felt like owned the neighborhood.  We would run from the dock - where sail boats launched and friends would spend hours swimming, collecting shells, and waiting for Mr. Softee to pull up in his ice cream truck - to the Douglaston Club, where you could play tennis, swim, dive, and where tickets bought you the coveted basket of hot fries.  The beginning of summer was marked with the Strawberry Festival.  July 4th  brought with it the Annual Memorial Field races and Labor day was host to the Annual Back to School Carnival.  People gathered and friends were made.  I love summer.

Maybe it is those summer experiences, embedded in my memory, that are responsible for my interest in community development.  I'm not sure, but what I do know is I've spent the better part of my adult life thinking about concepts of community and why some "variables/experiences" make people feel more connected to a group of people than do other variables/experiences.  

In the early 1990's a colleague of mine and I - while working in the Office of Residence Life at Miami University - co-authored a workbook designed for residence hall staff.  The purpose of the workbook was to present simple concepts and processes for building a cohesive community among college students moving into a residence hall (or dorm for all those who don't work in student affairs).  The workbook was published soon after and used by a number of other campuses.

The concepts transcend residence halls or universities, for that matter.  Wherever you have a "group," you have the potential for community.  This could be a neighborhood, a church, a sports team, class, or office staff.  We are all impacted by community (OR LACK THEREOF) and it is for that reason I have dedicated this week's blog to the topic.  When writing BASIC, my co-author and I referenced six I's of community.  I thought each day we might look at a different "I."  You'll get to think about how each applies to the communities of which you are a part and I'll get to spend the week talking about one of my favorite topics. 

I'll also find this interesting, because in some small way... that is one of my goals for this blog.  I want this gathering of readers to feel as though visiting highlowaha is like coming home and reconnecting with friends... a place to share exciting news, but also a place to go when you need to feel better.  I want us to laugh together, to celebrate personal life events, and to feel safe when asking for help.  But community is also about contribution.  So, I hope as our community persists that we continue looking for ways to engage with one another, as well as the greater community- and yes, maybe in the process, to leave our community better than we found it.

Today's "i"... Introduction.  Introduction is important to community for two reasons.  First, it is - in theory - how one comes to understand what he/she should expect.  Unless I get a basic introduction to the "norms" of a group, I will continue to feel like an outsider.  Let's use me as an example.  Ordering a drink at Starbucks could be an intimidating experience.  There's lingo to know and protocol about where to pay and then where one should wait for his order.  People have regular seats they like to claim and all it takes is one "outsider" of the community to throw the whole kit and kaboodle topsy turvey.

A second reason introduction is important is because... in the end... the only way to really have community is for one person to get to know another.  There are no short cuts.  When I first starting visiting "my" Starbucks, I was nobody - just a nameless, faceless, random person stopping in for a drink.  Then the staff recognized my drink order, but not my name.  Now, months later the staff knows my name too.  It is not unusual for employees to strike up conversation and to ask questions about what I do, etc....  Consequently, I feel connected to that particular Starbucks and the people I can anticipate seeing each morning.  Slowly, but surely, community is being built.

So, today I thought highlowaha could do some of their own introductions.  If you liked the blog entry titled, "Take it or Leave it," you'll like today's entry too.  Today I will provide some basic prompts you can use to "introduce" yourself to the rest of the readership.  This will allow us to better understand who one another is and what we might have in common (essential to an "i" we'll talk about later in the week).  Here are the prompts:

  • Name:
  • State:
  • Birthday:
  • Work in home/Work out of home:
  • Married, divorced, or never married:
  • Kids or no kids (if so, ages and sex):
  • Your Age (range if you're too incriminating):
  • A skill you're proud of:
  • Life goal:
  • Something you want to learn/do:
  • Something you collect:
  • Favorite past time(s):

As promised... Announcements
  • Bigger or Better: Claudia's frog to Maureen for case of wine; wine to Heather for Craft Case of scissors, etc...; craft case traded to ???.  The two items on the table are (1) NASCAR 2008 Jimmie Johnson 1:24 scale racing car OR (2) a guitar.  Which should we select as the next offer... car or guitar?
  • To-Do Tuesday:  Winning by 10 points, Cassie is our winner of last Tuesday's to-do challenge. 
  • Altoid Table: We got over 50 words for inside Altoid boxes.  Pen pals leave today.  More progress by end of week.  Thanks to Durham, N.C. for the first mailed shipment of chatchka for the tins (not to mention the other fun treats!!!!!).  
  • Taste of USA:  This week Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Montana, and Virginia.  On deck: Kentucky, Washington, Oregon, Nebraska, and Connecticut.  To date... New York is winning.

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