The Art of Building Community

by Ken Mueller on March 4, 2013 · 15 comments

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2013 02 24 08.04.26 1 300x225 The Art of Building CommunityWhen we first moved to Lancaster a few years ago, we moved into a three-story Victorian home that was fronted by a wonderful porch. Since I work from home, I quickly discovered that with wireless, I could work from my porch and at the same time spend time watching what was going on in my neighborhood. I got to meet some of my neighbors, and as my friends learned about the porch, they began to visit. Some even brought their laptops along to work alongside me. It was a great way to get to  know people.

Now, here we are up to our ears in boxes again as we have just completed another move. It wasn’t  a big move as we only went two miles away to another part of the city, and a quieter neighborhood. The new home is very similar to our old one, and the good news is: it has a porch, which will be conducive to working. And since it’s a quieter area, there will be fewer noise distractions as I talk to clients on the phone.

Once the weather gets nice, I’ll be enjoying my wireless connection from the new porch, and hopefully meeting more of my new neighbors. But even though I’ve moved to a new neighborhood, and will be building some sort of new community, I still have my old community. That’s because my community transcends my specific geographical location.

I can sit on my porch with my dog and relax. I can watch people as they pass by, figure out who my neighbors are (some might call that being nosey), and check on the steady flow of traffic. And of course, for those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, I can comment on what’s going on around me, and I’ll be posting the occasional picture on Instagram.

I also have a nice back yard with a deck…and lots of sun. I can also spend my time there soaking up the warmth, and get to know my more immediate neighbors (and their dogs and kids) a bit better.

But for me, the porch is more than all of this. It is a symbol of community. For the years that I lived in suburbia I barely ever saw or got to know my neighbors. And not for lack of trying. But at the end of the day, they would drive home from work, the garage door would open, and they would drive in and close the door behind them…never to be seen again until the following morning when they left for work again. Here in the city, I’ve met quite a few of my neighbors. In the short week that we have lived in this new home, we’ve had pleasant interactions with our neighbors. And I hope that this ends up being  like the kind of neighborhood I grew up in. Everyone knew everyone else. We played together. We worked together. We had cookouts together. I miss that.

So for me, my porch is really all about community. Or as one friend said, a “safe place.” A place where friends can stop by and relax and chat. We can get to know one another over a cup of coffee or a glass of my home brewed sweet tea. Sure they have to deal with Shadow until he calms down, but that’s part of the charm as well. It’s a place for both individuals and families. Grown-ups and children. To read one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry, you will learn that community implies both “membership” and “interdependency.” What I do has an impact on my neighbors. In his book, The Long-Legged House, Berry notes:

A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives.

That is how I view my porch. It may be MY porch, but I want to share it with others. With you. It is a sanctuary of public solitude, and a refuge. At times it can be noisy because of all the traffic, but when I sit out here alone, I am in a place of silence. And when I sit here with friends, despite the chaos around us, it is a place of relaxed conversation.

These communities exist online as well, or at least they should. This is what we should desire from our online and business communities, and we shouldn’t rest until we’ve created a welcoming porch-like presence for our friends, customers, and clients. When others feel welcome, you’ve taken the first step in building a community.

So…with that, I invite you to my porch. No matter where you live, you can visit, either in person, or via Skype or Google Hangout. And if you can’t make it, enjoy your own porch, your own community…and be welcoming to your friends and neighbors.

 The Art of Building Community
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12 comments
mcahalane
mcahalane

I am really on a "missing Lancaster" jag. Your picture just made it worse! (In a good way).


This is such a lovely piece, Ken. Thanks!

girlseeksplace
girlseeksplace

I'm so envious of the fact you have a porch. Our house doesn't have a porch or a backyard conducive to working (we get afternoon sun in the back and the neighborhood cats like to use our patio table and chairs as napping spots).

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

Guess this answers my question from last week about the status of the "new" porch. Nice way to weave in a message about community with the post Ken. I'm also happy to be a part of your tribe!

ProfS
ProfS

Honored I got to visit you on your old porch and looking forward to enjoying your warm welcome on the new one, Ken.  Glad to be a part of your community!

Shonali
Shonali

What I like so much about you, Ken, is how generous you are. It takes a lot for someone to say, "And if you can’t make it, enjoy your own porch, your own community…and be welcoming to your friends and neighbors." I'm so glad you're settling in to your new porch and community.

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

A different lens from this porch but happy to see the welcome sign up and the gang still sitting there (the pup). I am glad that you packed us all up in those boxes and delighted to move with you. All the best in your new perch.

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

@kenmeuller  I would like that also especially the ones with the moonshine next to the rockers!

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  3. […] time focusing on the tools, tips, tricks, and potential ROI, that while we give lip-service to the concept of community, we don’t really understand it. It’s about them, not […]

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