Creating community where you are/The public community

Wikis > Creating Community Where You Are > Creating community where you are/The public community

Creating community where you are/The public community

From ICWiki


The public community is all the people we bump into randomly in the outside world, outside of our homes. It could be a person next to us on the subway, a clerk at a convenience store, a person passing us on a sidewalk, a person waiting for the same bus, a person waiting in the same line, a driver in the next lane or behind or in front of us, a workman digging up a pipe on our street, a homeless person sitting on the curb as we walk by, etc. Always a person!

The public community in the United States is generally in pretty poor shape, except sometimes after a disaster. There is a general sense of fear about the people we meet. We fear that if we accept that they are people, we’ll get involved with them in an inconvenient or difficult way. If we accept the person-hood of a homeless person, we might feel obliged to treat them well or feel saddened by their situation. If we accept the person-hood of the person behind the counter at the airport, we might not be able to dump our frustrations on them.

There seems to be almost an epidemic of fear in the US, so we each put up a wall we hope can protect us from all those fearsome strangers. It can seem natural to think “If I don’t acknowledge that person’s presence, perhaps they won’t bother me.” Of course, a person who refuses to acknowledge our presence remains a stranger, remains to be feared. We don’t know if they are friendly or not; our natural tendency is to assume not.

One of the many things that can encourage this public fear is the local evening TV news. It is mostly a long series of awful things that happened to people who were out in public. It makes the outside world a scary place. We can break this cycle of fear by being good public communitarians, acknowledging the humanity of the people we meet, chatting or smiling in a friendly way with them (to whatever amount they are willing to accept.) It’s a way we can build community every day!