Of all the neighbourhoods out there why do you live in that one? What is it about this restaurant or pub or coffee house that draws you back again and again? It is the feeling that you belong.
One of the most basic of human needs, to belong. To be part of a tribe of like minded people. To be recognised, included, be part of the familiar, that is why we burrow down and grow roots. We create our own personal safety zone where we don’t need to be on alert for lurking danger and there is much comfort in that.
I have lived in the same house on the same street in the same neighbourhood for over 26 years. My children grew up here, went to school down the street, and established life long friendships. Believe it or not these facts always astound me.
You see as a child myself growing up, my parents moved a lot! First my dad was in the army so regular transfers were a given but after leaving the army, the moving continued. By the time I graduated from high school, I think we moved over 18 times (not sure, may of lost count). Setting roots down is not natural to me, so when my husband and I first bought our home, in the back of my mind I was telling myself, this is a good starter house but no doubt we won’t stay here long.
But a strange thing happened, I got involved in the neighbourhood. Having young children at the time it was not that hard. First it started by meeting the immediate neighbours while out walking with the kids around the block, then the parents at the playground and at playschool, next thing it’s elementary school, scouts, softball, soccer, and before long you know so many people in the community that going to the grocery store down the street for bread and milk turned into an aisle by aisle social. It was our community and we belonged.
My children are grown and gone from the family nest and so have the other neighbourhood kids. The dynamics on the street have changed in such that while the parents are all still living here, we are older and socialize less. That does not mean that there is no longer a sense of community, it is just quieter.
As life changes, community changes, and new roots must grow to accommodate. Even though I haven’t moved house, I now have a new neighbourhood that I hang out in, it is the street where I work. I look forward each work day to my new regular routine, the coffee shop for a mint tea first, then a stop by the dress shop to say hello to the owner, a wave to the regular busker and his dog then off to the shop to see what regular character will drop by for a quick visit. If I work all day, lunch and a chat at my favourite restaurant.
When you have a sense of being part of a community, you have an emotional stake in it. You welcome new members, support your neighbours and invest energy in the care and growth of the territory and in return you become part of something bigger than yourself and have an outlet to shine as your authentic self.
That is why we continually frequent the same regular haunts, for the familiarity and to belong. Humans are creatures of habit, when you feel safe in a place to just be yourself and in turn are accepted for it, then you have found your community.
There may be more than one community at the same time in your life. Everybody has more than one responsibility or interest in their life and as such are attached to different groups of people perhaps in different neighbourhoods but it is the community that you feel the most comfortable and the most yourself in that is your “Cheers”. It may be around the family dinner table or at the weekly book club at the library or dart night at the pub, if you can be your true self then you have found your community where everybody knows your name and their always glad you came.