How Do You Form and Maintain Community?

Monday evening we expanded our usual guest list to include some new people, in honor of Labor Day. We invited our cabin tenant, Tyler, along with his wife, Yanelly, who just moved to town. We also invited our new friends, Kayla and Matt, who recently bought a house from us and now live next to Martha and Mike.

And if you’re in the community, you have to hang out with Fiona (that’s Matt and Kayla)

We realized that we’ve been busy creating a community ever since we started coming to the ranch. We’re so grateful to Sara and Ralph for letting us buy our little slice of heaven and start down the road to making a life in Milam County. And now we’re helping bring in more folks, like my sister, Mandi and family, Mike and Martha, Kathleen, and Kayla and Matt!

You do have to cook a LOT of burgers for a community cookout, says Mike.

Forming a community

Pretty much everyone who’s become part of my social circle in Milam County has been because I volunteered to do something. That may explain why I’m such a “joiner,” as Sensei Larry, who taught my sons karate, has been saying for 20 years or so.

I highly recommend volunteering, because the people you meet are guaranteed to at least have something in common with you, and I figure people who like community theater, nature, and dogs (my volunteer areas so far) have to be pretty cool.

Here us someone I met at the Community Theater talking to someone I met at the Master Naturalist group.

Then, in a small town, groups will overlap, so Lee has met many of the people I know through his Rotary and Downtown groups. And you end up finding people you like to hang out with, and boom, you have a community.

Maintaining a community

So, once you have formed a community, how do you maintain it? I have only moved from one state to another twice, and both times I found the community in one place gradually fading away. Once you don’t have your La Leche League Group, your mom group, the band parents, etc., your connections wane. And that’s okay. Things change!

I found Sara at church, and now we’re stuck together forever!

On the other hand, thanks to email and Facebook (FB) and all those fine social media outlets we love to hate and re-love, I’ve managed to stay close to some groups long after our original reason for hanging out together dissipated. One of the members of an email list/FB group I’ve been in for many years retired recently, and now has a little camper. She’s driving around visiting everyone in North America (and she already visited the ones in the UK). Seeing all the photos of the friends together has made us all feel closer!

Here’s Patty, ready to start her journey to see many friends. I found her in La Leche League.

My group of high school girlfriends who endured a lot together is another example. If one of us needs anything, the others are there.

Anita and I DO have a lot of high school stuff to talk about.

I thought I’d see a lot more of my UU church community in Austin after I started spending weekends in Cameron, but it hasn’t worked out. People have so many meetings and duties on weeknights that it’s hard to carve out time. I’m glad there is FB for them, too, even if I’m often in the same town as many of them. (I’m not the only one who’s moved, so I’m truly glad to be connected).

Anita dramatically models a shawl that our Austin community member, Victoria, knitted.

But FB doesn’t tell everything, so I know I can often get a false sense of what’s going on with people I care about. Some hide when they are sick or have issues with their kids (guilty of the latter here).

In the past couple of months I’ve realized that two couples I’m fond of got divorced. Not a peep of it in social media. I can totally understand not wanting to raise a ruckus about it, but I missed the chance to send good thoughts their way during a hard time. And being there for people IS part of being a community!

I found this one in the community theater.

It’s all good, though. I’m very happy with the community we’re creating in Milam County, and perfectly satisfied with my current Austin community, too. Our neighbors are nice, I have a couple other friends I talk to often, and I do hear from some of my former coworkers and old friends fairly often.

For a Hermit, I think I’m surrounded by love and kindness, and that is really all I ever wanted to have when I “grew up.”

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Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog. I work with Hermit Haus Redevelopment to help people quickly sell their houses. I do their social media! I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I'm also a tech writer in Austin, secretly.

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