What is a community anyway? Webster’s dictionary defines a community as “a group of people who live in the same area; a group of people who have the same interests, religion, race, etc.; a group of nations.”
I think it’s much more than that. CommUNITY is “unity”. With a community, there is a sense of belonging together, caring for one another, supporting each other and learning and growing together. When you are part of a community, you feel you belong somewhere and are valued as part of the group.
Have you ever felt the difference between living somewhere and being a part of a community? I have.
When we lived in New York City there was lots to do all the time and we had our group of friends we would do things with. But I never felt “connected” to NYC or felt a desire to be a part of it and make it a better place or to help my neighbors. In fact, I met and spoke to the neighbor across the hall from us for the first time in 6 years when we were moving to California. I never thought I belonged there or that anyone cared if I lived there or not.
In Long Beach, it’s different, very different. I want to be here and be involved in making Long Beach a great place to live; I want to support my community members and help them live better, safer and healthier lives, even if I don’t know them. I love getting to know people from all across the city and finding out what they are doing to contribute to the community. And the community members make me feel like I belong here, like it’s my home, not just the city where I live.
Because of these two experiences, I strongly believe commUNITY is important, not just for a better place to live, but so the people feel better, happier, supported, motivated, active and alive. Isn’t that what we all want out of life?
Having a community and knowing your neighbor also helps decrease crime. If you know your neighbors, it’s easier to spot things going on in your neighborhood that just aren’t right. I sit in front of my office window at home, facing the street. I know who the regular people are walking down the street and who is new. If I see someone suspicious and know my neighbor isn’t home, I’m alert to follow up with getting the person checked out.
So I invite you to be a part of your community, wherever it may be, get involved, help others and see if you feel different or those around you feel different because of it.