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True Community is based upon equality, mutuality, and reciprocity. It affirms the richness of individual diversity as well as the common human ties that bind us together." — Pauli Murray

Hope Marasco

Hope MarascoWhy Community Means So Much to Me

As Joni Mitchell says in her song, Big Yellow Taxi: “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” But for me, when it comes to community, I’d say, sometimes you don’t know what you’ve been missing until you find it. In getting Community Builder up and running, I’ve been delving more deeply into why a supportive, creative community holds so much significance for me.

Growing up in a rural crossroads town in southern Indiana, for all practical purposes my family was socially isolated. Living completely off the grid, without electricity, running water, or other modern amenities, we were an anomaly in our small town. Despite our close proximity to our next door neighbors, our experiences could not have felt more foreign to one another.

At the end of a long day of working in the garden, milking the cow, bringing in eggs from the chicken coop, sewing or darning our own clothes, and cooking dinner over an open fire, my family settled in with hand-dipped candles illuminating our small two-room home. Contrast that with our neighbors’ nightly routines of getting home from work, turning on the sprinklers, heating up their dinners in the microwave, and turning on the tv to the local news broadcast.

Many families who homesteaded like ours did so in the midst of an intentional community, a commune, or at least in an area where other folks were attempting to live in a similar, simple fashion. Unfortunately my parents took a different route. Leaving New York City in the early 70’s, by chance, they settled in an area where close-mindedness and convenience were the ties that bound. As such, during my formative years, I didn’t get to experience the love and security that a tight-knit community can provide.The house I grew up in

Ultimately, I think the lack of support outside our home contributed to the pressure that eventually boiled over into my parents’ divorce. Fast forward a few years, following a move into the nearby town and my dad’s unexpected death, and I found myself living with a number of different foster families in more suburban settings, where again, strong community was lacking. No longer living with my biological family and trying to find my place with adopted families, I often felt utterly alone.

Fast forward a couple decades, and I now find myself in a completely different space, literally and figuratively. My path wound from the Midwest, to Peru, to Washington state, and then to North Carolina, with short stops in other countries while traveling. When my husband and I moved to Durham five years ago, for the first time in my life, I felt like I had found home. We happened to land in the Northgate Park neighborhood, surrounded by neighbors of every stripe. We’ve found an amazing group of friends with similar values of supportive community, and we are settling in to what will likely be our permanent home.

It’s no small thing to feel connected to one’s community, and given from whence I came, I don’t take it lightly that we’ve had a soft landing into a great town. Maybe you’re reading this, and you hail from a similarly isolated hometown; perhaps you’re someone who grew up in suburbia and have now sought a more downtown lifestyle; you could be someone who grew up in a tight-knit neighborhood but felt that it was more suffocating than supportive.

No matter where we come from, it’s encouraging and exciting to know that it’s possible to create the communities we wish to be a part of. I’m looking forward to creating community with you, the readers and contributors to this blog. So, Community Builders, why is community important to you?

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