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Belonging October 2, 2011

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Personal Observations.
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I am sitting in a small bakery in an interesting neighborhood of Louisville Kentucky. The name of the bakery is Breadworks and the neighborhood is called The Highlands. I love the neighborhood because it is very eclectic. There are an interesting variety of businesses located on the main thoroughfare of the neighborhood—Bardstown Road. And the homes located in the neighborhood are a mix of styles and price points. Many of the homes date from the well-known Craftsman era of home-building in our country which began in the early 1900’s and continued into the 1930’s.That gives you an idea of the age of The Highlands. I love these old homes because many of them have graceful front porches which the owners have carefully furnished as an outdoor room.

The bakery is located on a street which is referred to as Douglass Loop—an area where the old streetcars used to turn around to go back into the heart of the city. (And the ‘Douglass’ comes from Frederick Douglass, the former slave and abolitionist who was a presence in the city.) I am always intrigued by the history of a place where I live or visit. I often feel as though I’m a part of that history by simply showing up there.

But probably the most interesting thing about the neighborhood is that it is a community. People here tend to shop in the neighborhood. The bakery that I am now sitting in is a small business but one that is a meeting place for people in the neighborhood. I have been here on weekends when a group of the locals holds court in one of the pews that serves as seating for several tables. And it seems that everyone who walks in the door knows everyone else. That said, I don’t feel unwelcome here—this is Kentucky after all.trolleyhistory

Noticing the activity in the bakery got me thinking about community and its power to enrich lives. The town I live in is a nice place to live but the neighborhoods in my town are not so clearly defined. So you have to consciously search for community to feel a part of one. To me there is something cozy about being part of a community, whatever its makeup. We humans (for the most part) need to feel part of something bigger than ourselves.

Communities are made up of people who have something—or a lot of somethings  in common. This begs the question of how you create community if you’re not part of one. Churches are an obvious place where strong communities exist. In my own life I have become part of a number of communities that fill my need to belong. My circle of friends in my tango community is very fulfilling to me. This community was created with great intention by Lori Coyle-Magen who runs Sangha Space in Media, PA. My book group which has been meeting monthly for six or seven years is also an important part of my life. We have consciously kept the number to 8 people and invite new members whom we believe share our goals and standards for reading.

I think that as long as human beings value and nurture community we will be ok. It’s when we forget that we are all human beings with the same needs and desires that things get out of kilter. Now more than ever it’s important to “Think globally, act locally.”  And that’s why we need community.

I’d love to hear about your favorite communities…

–Amara

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