What is Community?
I was at the playground the other day with my son who is eight years old, and he was playing really well with two other children. One was younger, but very athletic, which helped to balance things out, since my son and the other child were about the same age. As they zipped around on scooters and big wheels, I noticed that the Chinese boy took a shine to the big wheel I had brought. So I gave him a turn and watched as he smiled and raced about the loop complete with mini bridges, obstacles to S-curve around and seemingly dinosaur bones that formed a sort of ribcage—from which he could emerge victorious!
The youngest child was destroying everyone in foot races and scooter power. The Chinese boy and my son seemed okay with losing as they were now old enough to realize the fun is in the sport. Everyone shared toys quite well. This social value is often hard to instill in children, and only maybe three years ago, it probably would’ve been an issue for my son. But hey, some adults still haven’t learned this important lesson either!
The Chinese boy didn’t seem to speak English and would occasionally chat with his mom on the bench in his native language. As he pedaled along on the big wheel, his smile captured my imagination, and I found myself contenting in his joy. I realized that I was as happy for this young boy as I am when I see my own son having fun on the big wheel. It was this realization that got me thinking about community. While I’ve sometimes struggled with a definition of community, I think this may be it—to take the same level of joy, in seeing a complete stranger enjoy life, as you would a family member. And to work towards that enjoyment.
If this all seems a bit too philosophical, that’s okay. We all have conversations with ourselves, I guess. When I think about my business, of trying to create relaxing moments for people who are often over-stressed, I also think of this community focus. The pressured speech, going a mile a minute, eventually turns into a sedated conversation about what matters. The blackness in our eyelids somehow opens up and we see colors, forgotten images, remember an important verse, a book, a meaningful encounter. Writer’s block is open. We see the path forward.
Adults are content to muddy their lives with material goods and constant distraction. But every once in a while, we can look to a child, and see the simplicity inherent in life. I was just telling my wife the other day how thankful I am that we didn’t have cell phones and social media when I was a child or teenager. Our society seems intent on documenting everything, but not always living in the moment, in the now. With thousands of pictures, somehow our experience of life is often lacking. We have become an observer to our own lives.
Of course, sometimes it’s good to step out and become the observer. Sometimes we need that perspective. But, you know, sometimes it’s good to just smile and pedal, with the wind in our hair, not caring if we win or lose, not even caring if we speak the same language or who owns what… just being.