Leadership Blog Part 15: Connecting with Our Community

Recently I reflected on Tony Hiss’s book In Motion – The Experience of Travel. Hiss talks about the experience of deep travel. The point of travel is more than getting from point A to point B; it is first and foremost an experience, the experience of traveling to planned destinations. And then it is something more – the experience of the unplanned encounters and realizations along the way. We can teach ourselves to have more deep travel moments – both far from home and close to it and within our community. We can learn the human dimension of travel and our emotions associated with the travel choices we make. Creating livable, integrated communities that preserve, in fact enhance, our quality of place is a collective, collaborative process, and it takes all of us to realize its far-reaching benefits. 

Understanding the interconnectedness of community is not always initially self-apparent. It’s more than where you find yourself, whether you live in a densely urban area, or in a serene, walkable neighborhood where on the weekends you happily watch your neighbors’ children play outside and during the week you see them walking to school with their parents or their friends as your tree-lined streets glimmer between shadow and brilliant light. Our longing for connection with our community doesn’t lessen over time, it strengthens the more we understand the relationships we have with our family, friends, and our community. As we begin to know these relationships at deeper level of realization, we become awakened to the words and illuminated thoughts of what we truly wish to convey to each other. It is then we can imagine a greater richness in connectedness to the larger family of community, and we can know there is a real possibility that our connectedness existed all along even before we met.

When I am thinking about the importance of connecting with our community, I am reminded of the poet Gary Snyder, a pioneer of the bioregionalism movement, and someone who has been described as the poet laureate of Deep Ecology. Snyder over 40 years ago noted that an entire region is made up of parts, each of which is whole in and of itself. Snyder believes that for us to truly find our connectedness with a place, we must start with the part we are whole in. I have always believed that within every aspect of our lives we must be connected with the urban and natural surroundings that make up our place, our community – our part of the whole: plants, animals, rivers, oceans, trees, soil – humans. It is these connections that ground us in community, both human and natural, and community is the bridge to finding our greatest purpose in life.
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