The Fraying Fabric
The social fabric of our culture is more worn than we realize. Cultural and demographic shifts have altered our experience(s) of belonging, relatedness – community. Some basic assumptions of the nature of our shared lives have been frayed and torn. As we attempt to create a sense of belonging with online avatars and tribal longings, neighborhood spaces that are unpretentious, safe, welcoming, and available have become rarer and rarer. We as members, notice this absence and try to communicate with our communities and community leaders the dreams and desires for transforming our neighborhoods. But, we are faced with limited resources, experience, and the tools that are needed for creating and developing neighborhood places.
The communal soul of a neighborhood suffers in the absence of shared gathering spaces not defined by consumption such as pubs, coffee shops, and similar businesses. The ongoing reduction in places for collective belonging and restoration means there are few opportunities to connect with other members of the neighborhood. Most often, those seeking those communal experiences have to travel outside their neighborhoods, sometimes even several miles. Also, what gathering spaces there are can be membership restrictive, such as churches and schools. A school or church may offer discussion groups for instance, but they likely center around the shared needs or creeds that define the group and the space they use. And, the membership of the group may not be offering those opportunities in a public forum like a local news source or bulletin board. The reality is that many neighborhoods lack these spaces and the ones that don’t suffer that same surfeit, have been extremely lucky to have organizers and sponsors creating spaces for these shared activities or there are underutilized spaces in local churches, association buildings, schools, and other similar structures that are currently available for outside use.