Sunday, October 5, 2008

Even a Novice Can Build Community

Many bloggers write about building community. Green Bean has great tips and pointers on how to reach out to schools, townships and cities. One Element in Time has an entire series on ways you can help build your community to sustain yourself and the planet. I have always been a bit envious of their courage, their strength.

These bloggers have wonderful ideas, however I hadn't really ventured out of my own shell to try these ideas on for size until Friday night. See, I do attempt to build community, though I tend to stay in my own comfort zone. We started a recycling program for our little league which was a challenge, yet directly related to my boys, so I tackled it. I wrote our school district leaders and had a conference call with the food service department to address the reauthorization of The Child Nutrition Act that affects the school lunch program. Again, I reached out into my community, but again, it directly affected my family and their schools. I write letters to congress, address ecological issues to our Lake Association and even host the blog for our local Michigan for Obama campaign office.

Selfishly, many of these efforts are directly related to things I personally feel passionate about or want changed in our community. This Friday I broke out of my comfort zone and attended a "Power of Community" meeting planned by the brilliant woman who organizes our food club.

She brought together farmers, bee keepers, students, energy conservation specialists, teachers, bloggers and activists. The first half of the evening was a screening of the movie "The Power of Community - How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" For those who haven't seen this movie, it's an hour well spent. I'm sure your local library might have it or it cold be found online. Yes, you could watch this movie by yourself, but as the woman who sponsored our event said, "Isn't the point of community, getting together as a community to watch the movie?" I plan to review the movie in a later post, for those interested.

The second half of the evening featured introductions of all the "Community Leaders" she invited that were present in the audience followed by a meet and greet in the lobby where products and information were available. And, wouldn't you know it, she asked two bloggers in the audience to stand up - I was surprised to find out my name was being called. How could I be a community leader? I simply sit behind my desk, with the anonymously of my computer screen to protect me and I blog. I write letters. I pass along valuable information. I get frustrated, I rant, I write funnies about my kids and sometimes I just vent. I rarely think that this little contribution builds community.

As the leader of our food club pointed out, alone she wouldn't have the time to research the information I write about on the food club blog. Alone, she wouldn't be able to reach across the country, from east coast to west, gathering information about food, politics, policy and greener living. She doesn't have the time. She is busy sourcing local foods, meeting with farmers, organizing her product for the Farmer's Market and most importantly, raising her twin boys. That's her part in building community. And mine? The information I provide to her and the members of our club is my little part in building community. See? Even a novice can do it! So, each time you sit at your computer to blog and you don't think it really matters or that no one is reading. They are. You are building community with every keystroke!


Lisa Sharp said...

My mom and I have talked for a long time about going to a meeting with the local group that does our towns recycling asking if they will start doing glass, maybe more kinds of plastic and maybe even curbside.

We need to do it next month! It's easy to talk about doing stuff, harder to do it.

Green Bean said...

Thanks for the mention! And, more importantly, for keeping this topic alive. I whole-heartedly believe that this is the sort of thing that can make the difference.

Good for you! For getting out there. :)

Can't wait to hear about the movie. I've been wanting to get that and show it either at a green moms meeting or at a green task force city-wide movie night (maybe to kick off our efforts to start a community garden). Is it worth it for something like that?

Chile said...

Darn, our library doesn't have that video. I keep hearing such good things about it, and will look forward to your review.

It's good that your venture outside your comfort zone yielded such positive results. It sounds like you do a lot to help your community. We already knew you were a valuable part of our online one.

GreenOfficeBlog said...

I've always thought that any kind of change you're looking to implement should start in your own backyard. By affecting the people closest to you, you can make the community greener, which will help to implement public policy in the future. Every little bit helps.

Melinda said...

You know, I realized I never commented on this fabulous post!!!!!!! I love "One Element In Time" It has a nice ring. ; ).

Seriously, though - good for you. It's really difficult to come out of our shells. But it's extremely important. And I will say that I don't think it matters if you're community-building for your kids or community-building for your community. They're one and the same, and community-building is community-building!

I have had a few similar situations to yours, where I've gone to meetings to see where I might be of help, and people talk about my blog and how great it is for the community. It makes me smile. And it makes me realize I know more than I give myself credit for. And that I am inspiring people - people I didn't know read the blog, people from my community and other communities.

Both on the internet and on the pavement are equally important presences for community building.