What is “Community” Anyway?

Community has many meanings for many people. We often use it to refer to a neighborhood or local area, and we sometimes refer to an ethnic group as a community, but the kind of community we are talking about goes much deeper than just a neighborhood or a group of people.

It’s about the sense of belonging that all humans hunger for—the need to be connected to one another, the deep desire to be a part of something meaningful, something that makes a difference.

This longing for belonging can have either positive or negative consequences. It is the reason people join clubs and do volunteer work, and it is also the reason people join gangs.

Our own families are the first communities we belong to, but the family community that existed (for some) in the pre-modern world seems to be much rarer now.

Some may never have had the benefit of a loving community around them, and the idea of being deeply involved in our family members’ lives, enjoying one another’s successes, and enduring each other’s failures seems to have largely disappeared.

Some argue whether this sense of community ever really existed. After all, every family has endured some kind of trouble.

Divorce, scandal, addictions, and a variety of issues have plagued many families in the past.

And of course, the entirety of human history is littered with injustices, whether it be slavery, war, or corruption.

However, many people felt a sense of community as they grew up. At one time, a child could walk the streets of New York City in relative safety.

However, today, you wouldn’t allow a 10-year-old to walk a block in most cities. Ironically, at the same time, our children are heavily influenced by a media of strangers lurking behind the screen they hold in their hand.

Unfortunately, losing the sense of community in our culture has spilled over into virtually every other aspect of our lives, including our business lives. As a result, our organizations today mirror the detachment many feel.

Yet as we pursue our individual agendas, deep down we all long to experience community.

And not only those of us who remember feeling a sense of community in the past yearn for it. Many of our younger people, today’s new workforce, may never have felt this sense of belonging, but they long for it like everyone else. The need for community and connectedness is built into all humans.