As Grandma Essie advocates, being a part of your Village is one of the most important steps to take when living a life from scratch. But one thing I have learned, you also need to be active in your Community.
Your ‘Community’ in this case is defined as the people who live outside your immediate neighborhood, but are still within close contact to your Village. In my case, this would incorporate the four small towns that surround us, as well as friends and family who live in other cities and states.
Why am I including people who live so far away? One answer to that question is simple – it doesn’t matter the distance, true friends and a strong family unit will always have your back. If it means traveling to get to them, or them to you, then that is all part of being an active part of your Community.
The Important Reasons to be Active in your Community
As much as we sometimes would like to withdraw 100% from society, in reality it isn’t practical or probable. As humans, one of our basic needs is to have contact with others – even if it is only one or two people at a time.
Having neighbors and learning to be active in your community fills that need. It doesn’t mean we have to be surrounded by people every single day. A little aloneness is also good for the soul. But when times get tough or we just need a helping hand, it is nice to have someone who can help.
To be active in your community means you have a sense of safety. In the case of threats, illness, or emergencies, having others nearby who can help or get help adds to our sense of security.
People in a Community advocate for and support each other. It may be as simple as supporting a local business, sports team or school. It could also mean advocating for changes within the community.
When we are active in our Community, we feel as if we are part of something bigger than ourselves. And having that strength in numbers can help us feel more at home, and bring a sense of peace to our world.
How to Be Active in your Community
To be active in your Community means rolling up your sleeves and getting busy. This can be done in many ways. The following are just a few of the things you can do:
When you volunteer, you are not only finding a way to be active in your Community, but you are also helping others by providing a service they cannot do on their own. It offers them relief from time, financial, and problematic situations.
Feeding the hungry, either through a Soup Kitchen or bringing bags of groceries to people who cannot afford it is a great way to volunteer.
Another way is to join a group such as Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for the homeless. In some cases, established houses are donated, and the HFH group comes in to make any necessary repairs – both structural and cosmetic.
Volunteers for HFH don’t have to have a Contractor’s License. If you can swing a hammer, wield a paintbrush, plant a flowerbed or just are great at cleaning up, they can certainly use your help.
There are many after-school programs and summer camps for kids who would love your volunteer services. You not only have a means to help the youth in your community, but you can also set a positive example for them to follow.
Different programs and camps focus on different activities. These can range from art, sports, nature and science, to name a few. Determine your strengths, and find a program or camp you feel would benefit from your skills and knowledge.
Do you spend time with friends playing music? Then take it on ‘the road’! Volunteer to play for small groups or during a community event. My mom was a part of a group that played the autoharp, dulcimer and hammered dulcimer. They came and entertained a group of us as a part of our December meeting. There was some hand-clapping and toe-tapping going on that day!
Advocate for Change
Are the laws outdated in your Community? Or is the Community in need of after school programs, a park or walking path? Maybe there is a bigger issue with littering, traffic or drainage. There are several ways you can be active in your Community by advocating for changes.
The first is to bring your concerns to the Town Council. If this is an issue that others would like to see changed, it helps to get them to sign a Petition before going to the meeting. Have a short speech ready that outlines the issue and the reasons for the changes.
If it involves detailed or larger, more expensive changes, have the information printed up and give a copy of it to each council member. Do your homework to the best of your ability, and include things such as how the change will benefit the Community as a whole, location, and if possible, determine how much it would cost the town. Be sure to add copies of the Petition as well.
No matter what, stay professional. Refrain from accusations, pointing fingers, name calling, and other negative outbursts. Doing these things will quickly lessen your chances of having the changes you are working toward take place. News Leader has some great tips to help you approach and speak with your Town Council.
A simple way to be active in your Community is to teach. This can take the shape of becoming a tutor for school-age children. Or, it may be by offering classes for a skill you are proficient in. Handcrafts make for great classes, such as knitting, baking, crochet, weaving, spinning, and more.
If you are technically oriented, consider teaching a small engine repair class. If you are a mechanic, a basic car maintenance class would be a great idea. An accountant may offer classes in basic budgeting, and someone interested in foraging can teach a class on edible plants in the forest.
No matter what your interests or skills, there is more than likely a class you can teach. And by teaching others, you are giving them an opportunity to expand their horizons.
Start a Community Garden
What better way to be active in your Community than to help feed them! This may first require a visit to a Town Council meeting, or to an individual who owns a section of land suitable for a Community Garden. Before you submit your request to the Council or individual, scout around for at least 3 places inside and outside the city limits that would be suitable for a Community Garden.
Determine if the land is privately or publicly owned, and whether or not it is already being used or in the planning stages for a specific use. This will help you know who to contact with your idea.
Next, have a detailed plan ready to go. This plan would include these things:
- the size of the land
- how it will be managed
- plans for raising money for the maintenance, upkeep, and supplies to build it
- a blueprint of the finished layout
- the size of each individual garden
- how many will be available
- if these will be raised beds or other design
- how you will choose who gets a spot
- what Insurance coverage will be necessary (and the cost)
These are just a few of the considerations you will need before approaching the Town Council or an individual for permission to use the land as a Community Garden.
If you are truly interested in starting a Community Garden in your area, The Community Gardening Handbook by Ben Raskin can help you get it organized and implemented.
No matter if it is a class, a needed change, a Community Garden or a Soup Kitchen, most groups would love to have you be active in your Community and join in. It may mean rolling up your sleeves and doing the work, or learning something new.
Either way, joining a Community group gives you a great reason to socialize, meet new people, learn more about your Community and help to create change for the better.
The invisible Needs of a Community
Every Community has these. They are the people who live in poverty and can’t afford to eat. They are the children who need clothes, shoes or supplies in order to attend school. And some of them are elderly who are home-bound. One way you can be active in your Community is to open your eyes to these invisible needs.
If you are one of those who love serving your Community, but want to be a bit more hands on with individuals, this is a great way to do it.
You can do this in several ways:
- Take a meal to an elderly person. Be sure to save time for a visit!
- Offer to run errands or take a home-bound person for basic shopping needs
- Choose a family to ‘adopt’, and take them groceries once a month
- Choose a child to ‘adopt’ – provide them with clothing, school supplies, or other basics necessities
- Become a Secret Santa –choose a family in need and provide Christmas gifts for each member
- Help/Teach a family how to start a garden and grow their own food
- Offer to teach other skills (home skills, how to create a resume, job searches, etc.)
- Speak with a teacher, and ask if there are children in their class who need clothes, food, etc.
There are so many invisible needs within a Community. Take the time to see what is needed, and make a plan to do what you can. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Most folks appreciate whatever you are willing to do. And remember, what may seem small to you may just mean the world to them!
Love your Community
No matter how to choose to be active in your Community, just being there, offering a helping hand and showing up for the work involved not only helps others, but it also helps you. Be a part of the fun, security, and love that is the invisible thread that ties your Community together!
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