“Community” — a community is a lot like art; people see different things in the same piece of work, and it takes on different meanings to different people.
A community also could be compared to an organization. Each organization is different, each having its own goals and missions. But for either art, community or an organization to be successful, they need support and they need people. They each will require stakeholders to make them successful. When we speak of art, unless the artist has a following and people willing to buy the art, the artist would not be considered successful. An organization is not really any different; it needs the support from its membership willing to buy into the goals and mission.
We don’t normally speak of the residents of a community as the “membership” or the “stakeholders” of a community, but Webster defines membership as “part of aggregate or a whole; one of the persons composing a society, a community, or the like.”
So isn’t that what we really are? If it is purchasing a home, or investing in a business, we each are stakeholders, we are the membership of this community.
It is not easy to create a successful community that will be worthwhile to all of the stakeholders while also bringing innovation and business opportunities. It requires experimentation to find the right model, and this requires persistence — and time. The fact is that a well-run community succeeds not only by delivering value for the stakeholders, but also by the trust and respect it builds. This takes time.
Each stakeholder has basic emotions that are hard-wired into our bodies and brains. These emotions express the current quality of our spirit. Organizations/ communities derive their emotions from many of the same sources as individuals.
Like people, organization and communities are always feeling something. Let’s talk about how collective feelings work. There are basic emotions that are powerful forces, operating separately and collaboratively in humans as well as in communities. People and communities have emotional habits. Just like a person, a community can be angry, fearful, sad, happy, disgusted, confident and joyful. We all use a few emotions and we avoid feeling and expressing others. Consequently, we overuse some emotions.
In this way, communities, just like individuals, often get stuck in emotional cycles.
One of the overused emotional cycles that I see in this membership/community is lack of confidence (and sometimes even disgust). We clearly see and even state the negatives and many times, I think we purposely ignore the positives that are clearly here every day.
We as a community have experienced many of these emotions within just the past few years. Think back to when this entire area was feeling fearful and angry; those two emotions are identified as a response to a threat or danger. Do you remember the horrendous emotion this entire area was feeling when U.S. Steel Granite City Works announced that there could possibly be a layoff of hundreds of workers last May? The emotions of depression and sadness were not just felt by the U.S. Steel employees, but every business and every family that was going to be touched by this closing.
It was the community that was suddenly fearful and depressed. There was anger that the threat was going to alter the lives of families, businesses and the entire membership of the community.
Now think about the relief, the happiness that the community felt as a whole when we found out there wasn’t going to be a layoff. Think about the anticipation our community membership feels when there is a rumor and then an announcement of new industry coming into the area, or a huge expansion of an established business. It means new growth, additions to our membership.
Think about the enjoyment and pride this community feels when we watch the Patriot in the Park and Pastor Roy Boyer asks the crowd what cities they are from. We smugly think, “I’m from this community.”
That feeling is pride; we feel it as an individual but the membership of a community can feel it, as well.
The success of the Six Mile Library’s million dollar renovation was due to the hard work and dedication of Tina Hubert and the Board of Directors. The completed transfer of the Charles Melvin Price Center to the Tri City Port District was not accomplished by the membership of this community but by the Port Commissioners. However, it is the entire membership of this community that can proudly claim a beautiful new library as well as the new South Harbor that Dennis Wilmsmeyer and the present Port Commissioners have recently secured, giving us (the community) America’s Center Port.
Maybe you and I do not have the capabilities to bring these huge improvements to the community, but we each bring value to the table. It is important that we each possess the sense of belonging and identification; it is that feeling of involvement, of belief and expectation that one fits into the group. They have a place, a feeling of acceptance by the group, and a willingness to sacrifice for the group. We all know that feeling. That feeling of acceptance, of knowing you’re in the right place and surrounded by the right people.
But as a community, we also need to accept the challenge of making sure our entire membership has a voice, to make sure they feel like they can honestly say “This is my community.” If they truly feel like they’ve had a hand in making the community what it is, then they will inevitably identify with the community.
It is that personal investment that is such an important contribution to a person’s feeling of group membership and to his or her sense of community. Consequently, with that personal investment, membership will be more meaningful and valuable.
It would be nice for the community to have a symbol, an item, as a type of representation of the community. Sports teams wear the same uniforms, and military symbols, pins and banners are all symbols that bond people to others who display the same symbols.
But by just giving people a symbol without first having in place all of the other pieces that contribute to membership and a sense of community, we won’t get the results we need and want.
We have all the parts — the people, the businesses, the schools, the churches. So what is missing?
Where do we start? What do we do? I’m always using the words “Community Pride,” but it is so much more than that.
We have a lot of work to do before we reach that point.
So, I put that question to YOU. What are you going to do? You are a member of this community. How do we as the membership need to be thinking and reacting, if our goal is to create a healthy and thriving community that this membership can be proud of?