Throughout most of our adult lives our sense of community revolved around school and work. You grew up knowing that you belonged somewhere. Work, children and their activities, and neighbors with similar interests made up the bulk of your social network. It wasn’t until the last child left home and retirement loomed that it dawned on you that your old community was gone.
So what happens now? The purpose of having a community versus spending all of your time alone is so that you have people to encourage you, support you and love you or what you do. A community is more than just having people around you. A community makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself. You belong to a community when feel as much of a responsibility for meetings the needs of others as having your own needs met.
Now that you are on your own, you will need to develop a new group of friends…a new community. It will be up to you to create your own community, but after all of this time, do you remember how? We aren’t talking about hanging out in singles bars because you seldom find a real community there. Casual acquaintances are all well and good but it isn’t quite the same thing. You actually need to give some though to what kind of people you want to interact with and where you might meet them. It takes time and multiple interactions to develop meaningful relationships so you may have to take the initiative. Waiting for someone else to approach you is not the answer.
Get involved. Are you interested in politics? Why not run for a political office? Anyone over eighteen is eligible to run for almost any office. If you aren’t quite ready for that kind of notoriety, you might enjoy working on else’s campaign. There are many dedicated groups working hard to make your township, your county, your state a better place to live. Volunteering your services is a good way to make that happen. You can even volunteer without leaving home, although unless you are truly homebound it is good to get out of the house.
So why volunteer? I stumbled on this list somewhere and felt it covered all of the bases: To do something for someone else, to be kind, acquire new skills, build your resume, expand your world, form new friendships, make your life more interesting and feel good about yourself. Surely one of those reasons will leap out at you. If you still can’t find something that you would like to do it is okay to start small. Look for something close to home at first and expand your horizons later. Volunteering does not have to be time consuming or complex. It can be as simple as helping out at a local fund raising program or spending a Saturday cleaning up a city park. Even the smallest project can be beneficial to the community and rewarding to those who participate. Is there something that you are really good at? Is there something that you feel passionate about? Is there a particular charity that you been sending checks to over the years? Offer your services. Do more than just sending a check.
I probably shouldn’t admit it but I read the funny pages in the newspaper every morning. The best cartoon ever is called Stone Soup by Jan Eliot because it brings a multigenerational family to life. My favorite character is Grandma because she is always going interesting places and doing neat things like building houses in undeveloped countries. It is fun to know that Grandma is the coolest person in the family, so let’s not use age as an excuse.