If someone asked you to define abundance in your community, what would your reply be? Would you think of it, in terms of natural resources? Would it be the monetary wealth in your community or area? Within society we have been conditioned to perceive abundance, as being something of tangible value, in the context of economics. So what about social capital? Social capital, is the “social networks” and our ability to reciprocate with each other, within these networks. Social capital is “People power” the “knowledge, hands and heart” of people within our communities. This is the real abundance and true wealth in a communities, or provinces, or our nations. Unfortunately, in our modern world, there is no real value placed on social capital; or if it is, it is undervalued or discounted, being of no importance.
We have made tremendous advancement throughout human history, moving from the Guild system (artisans and merchants) to an age of Enlightenment and new philosophies to the Industrial revolution. In between we have had a few more revolutions, world wars and a depression which have also transformed how we viewed our communities. Our grandparents came to this country, homesteaded and created their own community. They understood the need, or they would have perished, for they only had each other, there was no one else to assist. When they needed something done, it was talked about as a group and everyone partook in making it happen. They utilized the “people power “within the community. Some had knowledge, some had hands and all had heart and true grit and determination. They shared the highlights of each other’s lives, and they shared the tragedies and sorrows. They were there for each other. It was not to say that everyone got along, that wasn’t the point. Despite their differences, they worked as a unified unit to protect and assist and be there for each other.
So what has happened? Perhaps it was moving into the Information Age (also known as the digital and new media age) where things began to fall away and become shallow and superficial. As we became more affluent, enjoying a better life, we became more reliant on our technology and we felt it was easier to pay someone else to do what our parents or grandparents had done for themselves. We sought the “good life”, free from anything strenuous, and little by little we gave our power away to consumerism. As we continue to give our power away, the institutions and systems became larger and more complex, taking over our lives. They implemented rules and regulations and there was punishment, for anyone who did not want to conform or submit to the “rules of the game”. These rules then shaped our behaviors and made us feel insecure and unworthy. According to the authors, McKnight and Block of “The Abundant Community” communities became commercialized and the care within those communities (education, health, childcare, crime.) became professionalized (46).
Many of us realize, our world is not sustainable if we continue the coarse we are on. Perhaps it’s too late, but regardless we must change for we cannot continue the way we are going. Amidst the shallowness of our world, there is emptiness within families, and communities, and we need to revitalize this. Historically, we understand the lessons of our parents and grandparents, however we don’t want to go back in time. We need to create a new model with our own story. So where do we begin?
We begin by acknowledging the little victories ! We know we are doing many things well, and this needs to be celebrated! Holding BBQ’s and community suppers are a great way to show gratitude and celebrate!
Many of us have begun to connect and share our gifts; we’ve joined with other communities or counties to create what is better developed together, as opposed to operating in silos. We have begun to communicate and cooperate. We have also begun to take steps to get to know our neighbors’ and find out who and what they do, enabling us to have a strategy, going forward in looking out for ourselves and others, should something be suspicious or different. We are the authority in our communities; for no one knows our communities better than us!
We have begun to use different words, which are creating or reiterating new realities for many. These new realities provide community members with fresh and innovative ideas.
There is a definite change in the air; a well-meaning change, moving us from being consumers to engaged, caring and considerate citizens once again. Through communicating and sharing with each other, we are finding many similarities!
One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.” ~~ Jean Vanier, Community and Growth.