Admittedly, I love New Year’s. It’s the one arbitrary day when we collectively and individually take a look at the past year of our lives and the next to come. It’s a time to reflect on the various things we’ve accomplished and those we wish we’d done differently while mindfully considering what we want our lives to look like going forward. For some, New Year’s resolutions are a sworn by way to stay true to this ideal. Others bother little more than rolling their eyes at the mere mention of them. Whichever your preference is, there are resolutions to adopt for 2015 that don’t necessarily entail you building up false hopes of going to the gym any more than you want to, traveling more, finding “true” love, making more money, etc. Consider making this year about something more than just yourself, make it about your place in the world by re-connecting with your community.
2014 was yet another very intense year. From rising conflicts in the middle east and international community to the events in Ferguson, New York, and then some, we as a society continue to see one tragedy and hardship after another to the point where it becomes difficult to even remember the good things that happened this past year. It is now more than ever that we need to reconnect and deepen our lives to those around us.
It’s hardly a secret that our diminishing sense of community is in large part due to this growing ‘nation of individuals’ we find ourselves living in. We see it practically everyday in the group of people at the bus stop all staring at their smart phones rather than dare speak to each other, the decreasing amount of children we see playing together in the streets and front yards, and the hundreds of people passing the homeless man begging for spare change as if he isn’t even there. We are becoming pathologically lonely on an individual and collective level. This loneliness is so insidiously contributing to our depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and sense of alienation in the world in ways we don’t even recognize. We as human beings are by nature social creatures, but by the by we see ourselves getting further and further away from these basic human relationships.
While this communal connection can seem like an unusual or even overwhelming suggestion, I thought I’d provide you with a few ideas to consider to show you exactly what I’m talking about:
1) Community service. The most commonly thought of form of community service is perhaps volunteering to work in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. While these are certainly admirable options, they are by no means the only ones. Community service doesn’t have to feel like a chore or an obligation. It can be an extension of something you already love to do. For example, love being outside? Think about volunteering for a beach clean up or restoration project near you. Like kids? Consider being a mentor to local youth. Like animals? Local animal shelters are always looking for volunteers for additional pet care and support. Love to teach? There are dozens of kids and teens that could use an inspirational tutor. The list can go on and on. I know this sounds like work, but you may actually be surprised to meet some interesting and worthwhile people in addition to giving back.
2) Get to know your neighbors. I once heard Leonard Cohen say in an interview “the loneliest I’ve ever felt was in my studio apartment in Manhattan.” How easy it can be to feel so alone amongst so many people, especially in such a transplant mecca like the San Francisco Bay area. It can feel so awkward, but be so therapeutic to really take the time to get to know the people living just a few feet away from where you sleep. Remember: it’s the quality of your connection to the people around you that really creates the feeling of ‘home.’
3) Join more clubs, associations, classes, groups, etc. Book clubs, school boards, therapy groups, etc. can be a great way to build meaningful relationships with members of the community by participating in something that is important to you. These things not only bring people together, but can be a great way for you to get involved in something you actually care about.
These are just a few suggestions on how to reconnect with your community among dozens of others. Just remember that it’s supposed to be fun. If it starts to feel like work after a while there’s no harm in trying something else. Just don’t stop trying.