The Elusive Community Spirit

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These days when people say they live in a good, or friendly community they may mean that nobody bothers any body and just that, nothing more nothing less. In the post-Christian era neighbours no longer meet on a Sunday and have a picnic and swim in the river or the lake after the church service. First, not everybody believes in the same god, second, the river may stinks or dangerous to dip a finger into because of pollution, and Sunday may be a work day for some as the society have moved gradually from 5 day week to a 6 day week and now a 7 day roster is in place in many industries. No particular day in a capitalist society is holier than the next when a dollar can be earned. 

Finding a job that would satisfy and fulfill us can become full-time occupation for many.  A proud factotum, I gradually became a manager overseeing personnel with a large budget to keep an eye on.  Just when I thought  my perseverance and hard work paid off  I began to daydream about fruit-picking and putting a new asphalt on the road.  I still visit the road I jackhammered through and laid a new slap of concrete on. I worked with an excellent group of people. In the afternoons we went for a swim in the sea after a hard day work, on the rainy days we stayed in our parked caravan and often played cards . 

I have come across many people who are still searching for their true calling, even after graduating from college or half way through a successful career. What if paid work is not where we find our vocation?

Being part of a community has always sustained me through life. I do not pursue a ‘dream job’ and don’t believe in the concept and I do not envy those who have found it. Work for most of us is a necessary evil. Not wanting to sound pessimistic but what are the chances of getting our ‘dream job’? I have come across many young, talented and energetic art graduates looking for their lucky break. How many of them score a perfect job? Meanwhile is taxi driving, delivering pizza and waitressing until that lucky break.  We need to keep our dreams alive, I know. but more importantly we do not want to waste our talents and resources either. Perhaps by ‘dream job’ we mean fulfillment, flourishing, learning, growing and connecting to the world.  Can we put our talents in good use in our communities until we find a foothold in our relevant field, out in the commercial world?  

Many of us work because of our financial commitments and responsibilities  for others. Perhaps we should pause and see what else we could do in life. Is the pay-packet at the end of the month the only reason we go to work? Money does make the world go around but so does voluntary work and community activity.  

The gap between the workforce and our community or neighbourhood is widening.  Sometimes we feel we cannot be part of our community unless we have a successful career. But after finding a job we become too busy and run out of puff to take part in a community activity let alone initiate a new one. 

Our neighbourhood should be a vibrant nexus of community events, programs and workshops. And more importantly we need to foster a strong sense of community at work. The world would be a  much saner place if community spirit gave us a different value system which did not revolve around money all the time. And it is only in that spirit that money and spending it finds its true meaning and purpose: money to build a community garden, money  to buy food for social gathering, money to help those in need, money to support community projects, money for our campaigns. Talents can also be utilised in the community rather than being wasted in a non-related industry, community theatre, art classes, cooking classes to name a few. 

To find meaning in our work is not a myth, apart from needing the discipline, interaction and challenges, work is where most of us find our true calling. Also work is a place where many are shackled because they have no choice. Community building in the latter group is even more vital. Why shouldn’t we look at work as an extension of community life, rather than a separate entity?

As more and more humans would hand over their jobs to the future robots we need to think more seriously about building communities, encourage and support voluntary work, flatten the pyramid shape economy into a more circular shared economy  protect the battered ecology rather than exploiting it, encourage creativity more than consumerism. 

We cannot feel the pulse of our community spirit if our values work against us or benefit only some of us.