Building Community

Before becoming a writer, the work I did involved a great deal of moving. I rarely lived in one place for more than three years. Being the new girl all the time has made it particularly challenging to find authentic community. Over the years I’ve picked up a few tidbits to share with all you lonesome doves out there.

       1. It takes time

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Probably not what you wanted to hear. But it’s true. They say it takes up to two years in a new place to really be able to call it home. I wouldn’t go so far as to put a time limit on it, but it definitely takes time. The people you meet when you first arrive may not end up being friends for life. The people who come late to the party may be the ones who are with you until the end. There’s no rush in building authentic community. It needs a lot of careful nurturing.

2. It takes effort

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If you’re lucky like me two houses ago, you will find a friendly and attentive neighbour who will call on you and invite you round for cups of tea, but in this day and age when neighbourliness is harder to find it’s better to go to people rather than wait for them to come to you. Yes, that means leaving the house! But the biggest question is where…

3. Scope out the territory

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Now, when I first come to a new place I scope the territory. I visit every coffee shop I can find, I join the library, I see if there is a community magazine, Facebook group or website. I see what the place has to offer. As I’m a Christian I also visit every church. I make it very clear to people that I’m just visiting so no pressure is put on me. All I’m doing at this point is information gathering (and drinking lots of cups of coffee!!!)

4. Plan of action

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I then look at how much free time I have and when. I decide which of the things on offer I would like to join. I also see if there is anything I would like to do that is no currently happening where I am living. When I first moved to Shenley there was no Knit and Natter group. Then another lady in the village had the bright idea of advertising one and then went by herself to the tea rooms and knitted every week on a Monday morning. After three weeks another lady joined her; a couple of weeks later I came along. Since then the group has grown to almost twenty of us. They are a such a special, loving and caring group. I am so thankful for the first lady who was bold enough to sit by herself knitting all that time. What new community group might you start? It could literally be anything…

5. Build connections

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All these groups don’t need to be mutually exclusive. For example, a lot of the ladies from the Knit and Natter group have now joined the W.I.; some ladies from my church now come to Knit and Natter, and a group of people from a number of different other groups I belong to are about to start a Mah Jong group. I love people and finding out what they are good at and what they are interested in. Introducing them to others with similar interests and watching community grow is thrilling to me. Who do you know that you could connect with others?

6. Review Your Progress

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In the beginning it’s very easy to join everything on offer just so that you have something to do. It’s always good to have a six month review of your life and commitments so that if you need to take something off your plate that you no longer enjoy in order to make room for something new you can. After a while you can do this annually. When I join something or commit to doing a role I say to people that it is for a year. That way if I don’t renew it the following year I have given them plenty of time to find an alternative.

7. Celebrate!

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I now have an annual party to which I invite people from all my groups. It’s a great way to celebrate a fantastic year and to help people mingle. Weddings bells have even rung as a result of these events!

So here’s to a very Happy New Year to you all. May it be a year of connections, community and celebration!

Take care,

Liv

Not such a bad year after all: Reflections on 2016 and the year to come.

As the new year approaches I’ve been doing what so many of us do at this time of year – reflecting on the year that’s past, contemplating where I am now, and dreaming about the year to come. I know it’s a cliche to make a new year’s resolution list, but some annual reflection never did anyone any harm, and now’s as good a time as any…

2016 has been a tough year to celebrate. Personal and communal grief has meant it’s been hard to escape the shadow cast by the angel of death. People on Facebook and Twitter are even joking about wrapping people up in bubble-wrap until the new year to protect them!

Not only this, elections in both my countries (the US and the UK) have revealed deeply divided nations with so much bitterness and hate. There is enormous uncertainty about the future and many feel like they’re living on a knife edge.

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With all this doom and gloom it’s very easy to become negative. But if I look back on 2016 in search of reasons to celebrate I can say:

  • I’ve spent some precious moments with my adorable nephew and niece who teach me the meaning of unconditional love and joy.
  • I’ve laughed and shared with a fantastic group of crafty ladies who meeting on a Monday morning in our local tea rooms. Their creative energy fuels my own.
  • I’ve met with God in beautiful moments, contemplating the sunsets over the fields, in the midst of worship, and in the song of the birds. It’s at these moments that I have known what it truly means to be alive.
  • I’ve made significant inroads into a number of writing projects. I’ve learned heaps about the writing process, found a terrific community of fellow writers on Twitter and Facebook, and for the first time ever actually believe I can do this.
  • I shared countless meals with friends, family and strangers who have piqued my intellectual interest, prompted my discussion, and fired up my passions.

All in all, I’d say, looking back at these blessings, I’ve had a jolly good year and look forward to the next one.

daily-greatness-journalFor 2017 I’ve decided to try a new route – I’ve decided to join One Word 365. It’s an opportunity for you to pick one word which you want to focus on in the coming year. You then join the tribe for that word through their website and via other social media platforms. I’ve done it before and it’s amazing how the word keeps popping up everywhere. My word for this year is GREATNESS! I’ve also bought the Daily Greatness Journal by Lyndelle Palmer-Clarke to help guide the way. Will you come and join my tribe and see what the new year has in store?

Liv