Community can be very simple.  I see it when I visit my mom and I find her working on a puzzle with the neighbor’s daughter in their living room. At other times, community can get complicated, and we always have Richmond City Council meetings to remind us of this fact.

At its best, community is the expression of our human interdependence.  It is the sharing of conversation, time, and resources.  When community thrives, it thrives within the framework of reciprocity.  This is because, despite our culture’s well-known and cherished individualism, it feels good to be part of something bigger than yourself.  It feels good to help others and participate in projects with goals.  Investing in your own community is the best insurance plan you could ever purchase, and it doesn’t even cost money.

When I speak of my community to others, it is the context which determines the feelings and identities evoked by the word community.  For me, my own community has meant many things.  It used to mean south side.  At other times, it has meant Byrd Park or Oregon Hill.  It has meant hip-hop and it has meant punk rock.  It has meant VCU student and ART180 teacher.  It has meant activist and advocate.  It has always meant Richmond.  I see the Richmond community as the whole sum of its unique parts, and so it depends on us.  By getting to know others, we can expand our knowledge of this big community and we can work together to shape it how we want. Because having diversity isn’t enough.  It is embracing diversity that allows us to flourish.

Getting to know the people around you isn’t easy for everyone.  You might have to come out of your shell a bit, or shake some preconceived notions you have about others.  But in Community with a big C, your participation is essential.