Home?

4 Nov

Today, someone asked me an interesting question: You are well educated and probably have a lot to give back to your community- why don’t you go back home and contribute to your community?

I realized that by home, they didn’t mean my home here in Chicago but wherever it was I came from. I wasn’t quite sure what to say to that- but I thought of a quick answer- I said, I’ve spent the last 9 years of my life in or around Chicago, this is my home, this is my community.

Home, community- we love these words. I think it gives us a sense of belonging, gives us an identity. As someone who works in the nonprofit sector, with a job titled Community Organizer, I use the word community ALL THE TIME. It gives us the fuzzies when we use that word, doesn’t it. But in reality, what do we really mean by community?

As a TCK (for definition read my bio), I never was really comfortable with the word ‘home’.  It didn’t really mean anything to me given that every time I used the word as a child; I had over 15 different houses and apartments we lived in flash before my eyes.  Home was not going back to the backyard with the swing set dad built for me when I was five. Home usually means familiar, but not for me. So, rather than home, I cling on to the word community more. I think it has a sense of me contributing to the formation of it.

But let’s be honest- community is also an overrated, overused trendy term in many progressive circles, of which I am very guilty of myself. But as I had this person ask me this question- I realized that the power in community (and even home), is that community is not something others define for us, but what we define it to mean for ourselves.  People can tell me to go back home or back to my community because their sense of community and home does not include people like me. It probably is filled with people who look just like them and have childhood stories just like theirs but just because they exclude me, it does not mean I do not have a home or a community- I define that for myself.

Fortunately, even as unfortunately as it is that the word community is so overused, we are beginning to take back that word and own it.  Many of us are trying to create meaning of our lives by the interactions we have with our friends, neighbors and family- those who physically or emotionally live close to us.

But it is also important to beyond just getting the warm fuzzies about the word community- we have to move beyond just identifying as a member of a community to taking on the responsibilities of that belonging.  I find that in some places I see the biggest paradox- individualistic communities. People think they are in a community because they dress similarly, or having similar political/theological/or any other -ical position, but when you don’t take on the responsibilities of being a part of a community seriously, you just become like a bunch of people who all sit in a room and watch the same TV show without ever talking to one another.  When we start taking on the responsibilities of a community seriously, things get messy- and yah, sometimes living in community can suck. It’s messy and hard- dealing with people can be hard. But real community does not happen until we start rolling up our selves and getting into the mess.

So when I meet people who tell me that they just love living in community with others and have a star-eyed, or googley-eyed mentality about it- I usually wonder if they’ve really rolled up their selves and gotten themselves involved in their community.

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