11 November 2008

Where Everybody Knows Your Name...

On Sunday night I listened to an interesting programme on the radio about the importance of a feeling of Community in a person's life, of belonging. This has set me thinking and pondering again this week... and as usual I've been exploring the 'net for other ideas on the subject.

Apparently, sociologists often talk about people needing to have an experience of belonging, a need for a 'Sense of Community'. Noted psychologist Seymour B. Sarason even called it "one of the major bases for self-definition." In layman's terms, you need to have somewhere where you feel you belong! Without that experience, it's as if you don't belong. This could well be your family home - a group or club - or indeed your local church. The title for this feature is taken from the theme song to 'Cheers', an American sitcom about a Boston bar, and the community that frequents it.

David McMillan and David Chavis have a published theory states that one's Sense of Community is composed of four elements.

The place where you feel you belong should be a place where you feel emotionally safe. Interestingly, psychologists also say that the community should have a 'common symbol system'.

This can be experienced both ways - members need to feel that they have some influence in the group, and some influence by the group on its members is needed for group cohesion.

Integration and fulfillment of needsMembers should feel rewarded in some way for their participation in the community.

Shared emotional connection
Members should have some sort of shared history and of course shared participation (or at least identification with the group's history).

As part of a number of community groups, each endeavouring to get others to feel part of the community and to participate, I have found it interesting today to note down these elements and to apply them to my own situation.

Some further quotations on the subject:

Chinese proverb:
One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade.

Mother Teresa:
Keep in mind that our community is not composed of those who are already saints, but of those who are trying to become saints. Therefore let us be extremely patient with each other's faults and failures.


Anonymous said...

Hi Colin! Found your blogg. I find your current topic an interesting one. Belonging for me is being accepted for who I am, not what others want me to be, and to feel emotionally safe... fortunately for me I have a special person and family that do just that, so I know what belonging 'feels' like and also know when I don't belong feels like too, if that makes sense!!

Am interested to see how this blog progresses.
every blessing

Colin M said...

Thanks for the feedback here, Lisa. Keep following... (in every sense)