One of my teachers told me once that responsibility isn’t about burdens, it’s about hugs. It’s about who we want to gather into our space with big, warm arms.
That seems a terrific guideline for defining community of choice. We may still have to figure out cooperation and sharing, but we’re doing it because we want to be there, not because we have to. It’s a relationship that makes reasonable demands and is based on inclusivity. It’s more like the star-struck group projects where there are no ride-alongs or bulldozers.
If only community were always by choice. Mostly, we’re in communities that came from other choices – employment, location, activities.
So how can we keep boundaries and balance in communities that may ask for unreasonable sacrifice or where we can hardly stand the idea of being within arm’s length? That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Particularly with intractable neighbours or when our livelihood is at stake.
Clearly, there’s no one answer for all situations. But there are perspective shifts that help us find our own personal solution. What is the big picture in your life that community is part of? How can your community serve that big picture? Where is your line for being a doormat? Or your line for welcoming hugs? And where is the ring-touch-not that means you’re leaving the community completely? (And is that even possible?)
Hopefully, you have a community where you can experience that sense of group hug – a tribe. If not, can you keep your big vision for your life and the idea of welcoming community in mind as you make your decisions, large and small? After all, part of what needs to be included in community is your own dreams for your life – the real you.