As we continue our year-long celebration of our diverse community through Faces & Voices, we asked three LOCAL writers to reflect on what community means to them in their own personal essays.
a ground to stand on
By Anna Befort
To me, community is the good stuff of life. It’s the unifying thread in my work and life, woven into almost everything I do—from living in a cooperative house that runs a community garden, to teaching at a yoga studio, to working in urban farming for a community nonprofit, to facilitating the 3,000-member-community of Dance Church Minneapolis.
I believe community is an invitation into deeper communion with life. It is a call to care for a person, a place, a purpose in this world. It is at once a call to something greater and a call to something deeply personal, as community challenges us to become better versions of ourselves: to get over our own egotism and find a way to understand the other, even when the other is pushing all our buttons. It is a way of communing not only with ourselves, but also with others who long to live full and fulfilling lives, in the belief that we can be more than our separate small selves. Community is an opportunity to balance our inner and outer impulses—that inner need for autonomy with the outer desire to care for others and commit to something bigger than ourselves.
In my own life, community has offered ground to stand on when everything shakes around me. It’s the beloved friend who reminds me who I am when I have forgotten, and for whom I can do the same. It’s having a place where I feel welcomed, seen, and valued—and helping to create that space for others. When done well, I believe community helps us call forth the best in one another and extends a loving hand when we’re at our worst. It asks us to step out of hiding and be seen. In the process, it’s a way to stake a claim for what’s truly important to us—through the projects we cultivate, the buying choices we make, and the values we choose to elevate together. Community reminds us that we are not alone. It is a way of saying: I see you. You matter. And I’m so happy you’re here.
Anna Befort is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer, yoga teacher, and fifth-generation farmer.
a voice & purpose
By Steve Share
Over the years, I’ve worked as a community organizer and community newspaper editor and I’ve shopped at community food co-ops.
It’s a big, big world out there—whatever we can do to make our immediate world one where we can develop relationships and work with one another to pursue common goals reduces that big, big world to a sphere that’s on more of a human scale. We can together, in that space we’ve defined, create change.
As a community organizer, I’ve knocked on doors and spent countless hours sitting across kitchen tables listening to folks speak about what mattered to them. We discussed how we might get together with other neighbors to make an impact as a group. And then we did.
As a community newspaper editor, I covered innumerable neighborhood meetings and helped to tell the small-scale stories that mattered to people in the community, stories that weren’t going to win coverage in the metro area’s daily newspaper or on TV. In print, in the pages of the community newspaper, those stories helped drive a community agenda and helped readers to identify themselves as members of that smaller community within the metro area. And sometimes those stories, from those monthly community newspaper pages, moved next to the larger weekly newspapers and then on to the daily newspaper.
I’ve shopped primarily at community food co-ops for pretty much my entire adult life. I like the small scale of the co-op compared to a larger supermarket. I like running into my friends and neighbors at the co-op. I like buying produce in season from Minnesota, instead of from halfway across the country or halfway across the globe. Here, in our community food co-op, we can define, create, and support a food system that will nurture our bodies and the planet. Plus, it’s a member-owned co-op, so it’s our shared values—not the pursuit of profit—that give us purpose and drive us forward, together, in community.
Steve Share is a local editor and writer and a newly elected TCCP board member.
a new kind of happy hour
By Rachel Nevergall
“Want to join us for happy hour? I’ll introduce you to the neighbors!”
The text comes from an acquaintance I met recently at the park. We are new to this community, so making friends is part of our transition. But with a newborn in my arms and two older children running wild, I hesitate at the invitation. This current state of exhaustion—where capacity for thoughts equates to hours slept—couldn’t be great for first impressions. Surely we don’t fit in at a happy hour.
Exhaustion, however, can lead to hopeful desperation. “Happy hour?” I ask my husband. “Why not,” he responds. We speak in two-word phrases these days; I anticipate conversation with new friends to be a struggle. But with a half-full bag of pistachios and random collection of beers, we make the five-block walk to our neighbors’ home.
And as my new friend hands me a cocktail and her children pull ours off to play, I discover a new kind of “happy hour.” I learn “hour” is a misnomer, for as the hour stretches to two and then three, our friends pull out bowls to share soup cooking in the crock pot. I notice “happy” is how you feel when the children entertain each other, allowing you to carry on a conversation of more than two words. And as I walk out the door nourished in ways I never knew possible, we make plans with our new friends again soon.
Happy hour isn’t about the cocktails poured or the food shared. It’s about creating happiness at a time when you thought it was lacking. It’s about finding community when you thought you were alone. It’s about saying yes to an invitation to gather when you think you don’t belong. And then discovering that you do.
Rachel Nevergall is a freelance writer living for her next cocktail in South Minneapolis.