Community Building

I run a mail­ing list for peo­ple in Geor­gia who are inter­est­ed in cre­at­ing com­mu­ni­ties, cohous­ing, etc. It’s a fair­ly pri­vate list, as it grew out of our home­school­ing group. We don’t adver­tise its exis­tence and are always rather sur­prised when some­one from out­side the HSing group asks to join.

Any­way, one of the mem­bers’ wives has absolute­ly no inter­est in inten­tion­al com­mu­ni­ties. She sees them as sim­i­lar to gat­ed com­mu­ni­ties with all their covenants, and she does­n’t want to have some­one telling her how she can use her land, that she has to go par­tic­i­pate in com­mu­nal meals or meet­ings, that she can’t have some par­tic­u­lar sort of pet, etc.

I can def­i­nite­ly relate to her objec­tions. I have some­thing of an aller­gy to author­i­ty and don’t tend to acknowl­edge many peo­ple or orga­ni­za­tions as hav­ing any author­i­ty over me at all. I would­n’t want to live in one of the cor­po­rate-feel­ing ICs where agree­ments are imposed, so to speak.

The kind of IC I’d like to be part of would have to grow organ­i­cal­ly. It would be made up of peo­ple who have devel­oped strong rela­tion­ships over time and are open to being inter­de­pen­dent to a greater or less­er extent. They might just want to live near each oth­er and share some resources. They might choose to work togeth­er and share meals. They might just share gar­den space or barter labor for a share of the pro­duce from a garden.

The lev­el of inter­de­pen­dence would vary between dif­fer­ent house­holds, and would prob­a­bly vary over time. Shar­ing resources when pos­si­ble, though, ben­e­fits every­one. Tools, gar­den­ing space, skills—those kinds of things can be pooled pret­ty easily.

Stuff

How many rid­ing lawn mow­ers are actu­al­ly need­ed among a few house­holds? One. You take turns using it and keep it main­tained, and there’s a great big hunk of resources that can be used in oth­er ways. That’s true of many expen­sive tools.

We have a tiller that’s very use­ful when it’s need­ed but isn’t exact­ly in use every day. One of our neigh­bors want­ed to bor­row it, so he put in the labor to till our garden.

(I know from past expe­ri­ence that some peo­ple don’t take good care of tools, but let’s not get into that right now. We’ll assume that such things are worked out over time, as those who abuse priv­i­leges would find them­selves some­what isolated.)

Skills

We have geek skills aplen­ty in our house­hold. I am the queen of van­quish­ing red-tape drag­ons and get­ting peo­ple orga­nized. There are many oth­er peo­ple who need those skills, and who have skills and knowl­edge that we don’t have. We’re all bet­ter off when we share them.

We have two pro­fes­sion­al writ­ers in this house­hold. curiousmay9 has a back­ground in biol­o­gy in addi­tion to her pro­gram­ming skills. sam­bear is an excel­lent teacher. We lack for­eign lan­guage skills. We could and would hap­pi­ly exchange tutor­ing time with oth­er families.

Time

When we lived on the oth­er side of town, our net­work of friends knew that I was at home or oth­er­wise avail­able 99% of the time. Most of them worked dur­ing the day. If their kids were sick, or they just had a child-care cri­sis, they could usu­al­ly bring their kids over to our house. We had the house set up so that lit­tluns could be accom­mo­dat­ed safe­ly (some­thing I want to do here), so I got to enjoy bor­rowed babies and they did­n’t have to miss work.

Space

In the future, I’d love to see the gar­den expand­ing. I’m not phys­i­cal­ly able to do that, and curiousmay9 does­n’t have the time for it. We do have the room, equip­ment, and mon­ey to spend on what­ev­er’s need­ed. We’d love to have some­one who had the time and enjoyed gar­den­ing join us in our lit­tle plot of land.

We’d like to try biodiesel at some point in the future, but I don’t know how much sense it makes on a one-house­hold scale. We’re very inter­est­ed in alter­na­tive pow­er, too. We could find room for some live­stock if we had the time and labor avail­able to take care of it. Many hands make light work!

I dream of buy­ing the prop­er­ty that backs up to ours. It has 7–8 acres of land, with a lit­tle house that has been emp­ty for good­ness knows how long. It isn’t being main­tained and has all the win­dows bro­ken and the doors torn up. It’s a cin­derblock build­ing, though, and still sol­id in the impor­tant ways. It would make an awful­ly tiny home, but a great com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter. It could eas­i­ly be fixed up to host events: games, meet­ings for any group, meals, par­ties, class­es, house con­certs, etc. It could be set up as a learn­ing resource cen­ter, with a shared library and things like lab equip­ment that can be a bit pricey for one family.

The house at the end of our cul-de-sac is anoth­er dream. It was built at the same time our house was, and all this prop­er­ty was owned by one extend­ed fam­i­ly then. It’s about the same size as this one, from what we can tell. It’s being rent­ed out right now, and the ten­ant is not tak­ing care of the place. It sat emp­ty for a while before he moved in. We’re hop­ing that the own­er decides it makes more sense to sell it, and when that time comes we WILL buy it if there’s any way for us to do so.

Those two prop­er­ties would be a great start at con­vert­ing our neigh­bor­hood into an inten­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty. We have two friends who live across town but would like to be clos­er, and either of them might try to get into one of those prop­er­ties or what­ev­er else comes avail­able over here.

Would we need to buy up the neigh­bor­hood? Nope. Just being near each oth­er would work. We could share those resources, skills, etc. We could be avail­able for those things neigh­bors took for grant­ed at one time—babysitting, bor­row­ing a cup of sug­ar, etc.—without hav­ing to get into con­tracts. We’d still have our own sep­a­rate spaces but could come togeth­er as we like.

Kid Stuff

My ear­li­est years were spent in and out of neigh­bors’ homes. They were senior cit­i­zens and child­free couples/singles and fam­i­lies with kids my age. As I grew old­er, I did a lot of babysit­ting. We did­n’t plan events for hol­i­days like the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve. They just hap­pened nat­u­ral­ly. Peo­ple would take lawn chairs over to some­one’s yard, food would appear and go on a grill, and fire­works were brought out and shared. When we lived near my moth­er’s fam­i­ly, some­body would start mak­ing music and it would spread in a beau­ti­ful way. What bet­ter way for kids to devel­op good social skills than by lots of inter­ac­tion with “safe” peo­ple of all ages?


That’s what I miss. That’s what I want. Yes, it’s inten­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty in that peo­ple who want to live that way would move near each oth­er to be in the community. 

What do you dream of?

Cur­rent Music: “Come, Join, Dance In Our Circle”
Cyn is a proud Mommy & Mémé, professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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