As a preservationist I advocate that people know their surroundings, wherever it may be that they spend their time living, working, and having fun. After all, isn’t life just better if you enjoy those places? Whether you know your neighbors or the people where you shop, finding that sense of place and community gives you a feeling of belonging, of being a part of that community. Consequently, that’s a positive step for quality of life and pride in your general environment.
Yet, being a part of a community can be hard for us transient types. And it’s hard for those of us with nonstop schedules. How do you belong in one place when you’re always in ten different places at once!?
Fortunately, community is a broad term. You are probably part of a community now, whether you realize it or not. Who do you see on a day to day basis? Where do you work? Where do you shop? Do you volunteer or coach a sports team or hang out with other parents at your kids’ soccer games? All of those may be different communities, altogether composing a larger community. Still, these are examples of typical communities.
Working in oral history has created a community for me, but one that is unbound by geography. Since there are only two of us working on the oral history project, my interaction within the confines of Fort Bragg has been very limited. There are few places I’ve traveled to on post, yet I know my way around Harnett County where most of the interviewees live. I know these people, their homes, who is friends with whom, and the back roads to their houses and where they attend church. They are the people I call and communicate with; very seldom do I have business reasons to interact with people in the same (large) compound at work. It’s a perplexing thought to have worked somewhere for over two years and to not know many people outside our own office and nearby offices.
However, I cannot imagine a reverse situation in which I am familiar more with Fort Bragg than with Harnett County’s back roads and the people who lived at Overhills. I may be based on Fort Bragg, but my work reaches far past the gates. They are my community. So, while a part of me feels as though I do work in my Overhills bubble in my office, I am grateful to have my work focused elsewhere and concerning people who live all over the country. My community gives me pride in my work and has introduced me to new surroundings, peoples, and lifestyles. I may not live here in North Carolina for much longer, but a part of me will always belong to this present community.
There are many more abstract communities, if you will, such as the internet. What is your community? Do you have more than one? Is it typical or abstract?