Before living in Hawaii, I was never a part of a community. Looking back, it was my own damn fault, but I couldn't see that at the time. I never participated in groups. Didn't go to the local square dances. Didn't join the reading club, hiking club, trail riding club. Never visited the gym group. Didn't get involved with ceramics. Nor tried the local theatre group. Never tried ham radio. I did join dog showing clubs but found people there to be very competitive, aggressive, not at all friendly and pleasant. But by their very nature, of course the people were competitive! They competed for ribbons at dog shows, a dog-eat-dog sport. But even more than not joining groups, I seldom went to community events. Nor did I get to know my neighbors. Boy, I was a sorry candidate to become a member of a community of any sort.
Upon moving here, I wanted a whole new kind of life. So I didn't already have rules or habits, and I was curious to see what this area was all about. Discovering my community didn't happen overnight. It was a slow process. In fact, I had a hard noggin and needed to be hit over the head several times before I discovered that there was this marvelous community life out there. Now I embrace it on a daily basis.
I make an effort to support community events. I either attend as a spectator or volunteer to work behind the scenes. I volunteer to help out on various projects, like beach cleaning. I participate in some other events, like whale counting. I try to keep in touch with people. And I try not to become too over extended or too involved, thus making community life a chore, drudgery, or something unpleasant.
Community exists on numerous levels. There are ethic oriented communities -- Filipino groups, Hawaiian, Japanese, etc. Some communities revolve around religion or a particular age group. Others form because of a common interest -- ham radio, hunting, horses. Yet others are more influenced by region, such as a neighborhood or town.....or identifying with our district of Ka'u. So one has a choice of the type of community focus that would interest them.
Getting involved in a community can be as simple as saying hello to everyone you meet, even strangers and tourists. Before you know it, people talk back and there is an opportunity for a bit of an exchange. Taking the effort to help someone is a start to getting involved. Things like helping someone take their groceries to their car, giving a stranger directions, helping unload the trash from their car at the dump.
In the past I've been told real community connection killers :
...why be friendly with that person, what can they do for you?
...why help that person, they won't appreciate it.
...why give that person anything, you won't get anything back.
...why be nice to that person, it's just brown nosing.
...don't talk to strangers.
Gosh, I grew up with this. It's no wonder I never was part of a community! But I still hear bits of conversation like this around me and I feel sorry that those people have built a high stone wall around themselves. They unwittingly keep themselves at a distance.
I was told once that there is danger in getting involved with other people. I could get my feelings hurt by opening up and participating in a community. Sure, of course! But I have decided just to shrug off as much of those perceived insults, hurts, and rudenesses as I can. Just be as slippery as goose shit, my grandmother once said to me (she almost never cursed, but I suppose goose dirt or goose dung just wouldn't give the same effect). I like that imagery, slick as goose shit. Thus I refuse to let others' negative feelings get dumped into me - let them slide off. Interactions with other people will never be prefect. I accept that. So I'll take it as it comes but won't get too personal.
The bottom line is I am glad I went against my childhood training and reached out. I actually accomlished it! Some days I discover that maybe I reached out to people I wished I hadn't, but that's ok. I just pull my tentacles in and move on. There are always others out there who will enjoy a bit of connection.
So joining a community can be done just about anywhere. Perhaps if I had been a community member back on the Eastcoast, I wouldn't have moved to Hawaii. Wow, maybe I was fortunate to be unconnected because I'm really happy to be living here in on Big Island.