Community is important (or should be) to all of us. Who are we without a supportive and positive community? We are solo strugglers – looking for connection. Everyone wants to be a part of something – and community, whether it is defined by geography, emotion, experience, or physical characteristics, helps us to feel less alone. My communities include residents of Connecticut, f0rmer residents of Detroit, Michigan, members of the Daniels and Morton families, and many more. In all of these communities, I find people who are like me – in some way, shape, form or fashion.
Day 3 of Kwanzaa celebrates and emphasizes the principle of Ujima – Collective Work and Responsibility. On this day, the first green candle of the Kinara (candleholder) on the far right is lit, after the center black candle (representing the people, lit on Day 1, Umoja) and the first red candle on the far left (lit on Day 2, Kujichagulia).
In any community, collective work and responsibility make the difference in a liveable, vibrant community and one that is slowly (or not so slowly) perishing. In a similar fashion, the contributions of others in a community can reinforce good values, help to shoulder the burden of painful experiences and occurrences, and build up the psyche of it’s members.
Community can take many forms – those external to your immediate location – as in a community of people who all graduated from the same high school or college. In that case, community transcends geographic boundaries – you may all live in different areas, but you are bound together by the shared experience of school, and the shared accomplishment of graduating from that particular school.
On your journey toward a fully-realized, accomplished and more positive YOU, who is part of your community? Perhaps those who encouraged and helped you along the path toward a healthier bodyweight, those who encouraged you to get in your workouts when you really didn’t feel like moving, or those who continually reinforced your new, positive outlook about yourself and your activities. All of these could describe people (or persons) who are part of your community.
I hope that you count me as part of your community – one of those people with whom you have something in common and who gives you something positive and uplifting. As we approach the beginning of the New Year, consider who is a part of your community. Where do they fit into the principle of Collective Work? Are they encouraging of you in your efforts to become healthier, more self-confident and self-empowered? Do they encourage you to put your health first, express your true personality, and enhance your self-esteem with honest and heartfelt compliments? Do they challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and try new things, then celebrate with you when you do? Are they prepared to not just ‘talk’ you through the tough times, but stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you to fight your way through challenges?
If you can answer yes to these questions – any of them – then that person, even if it’s in a small way, is part of your community and is putting in Collective Work to help you move forward. What about Responsibility? Members of a positive community are responsible to each other – to provide support, correction when needed (but always in a loving manner), and to add their efforts to the collective work being done. Someone who just talks a positive line can be helpful, but only in a limited way. Someone who is willing to be responsible in a larger way and take action toward bettering the community will be far more helpful in the long run.
As you consider this principle, take a look at the communities you belong to. How are YOU contributing to the Collective Work of the community and what is your level of Responsibility? Are there areas where you could be of more help or assistance? Is there someone you could bring into the community that either needs help, or could provide additional help?
Planning NOW to make your communities stronger will help you to develop your personal action plan for 2011 and hit the ground running instead of having to take time to prepare. That is what this week is about – preparing for a terrifically positive and powerful launch into the next phase of your future, and ultimately your new life!