There’s a big buzz word going around in recent years, and that word is ‘community’. The term is broadly defined as a group of people who share a common location, view, characteristic, goal, or interest. But what does that even mean? It’s certainly more than a Facebook page or message board. It may be argued that community refers to the unique relationship formed by a group of people who care about each other and share a sense of identity and inclusion.
To find out why community is so important and how one can get involved in one or even start their own, I sat down with three fierce ladies in Hamilton who believe in community, do an amazing job cultivating it, and make it a priority in their life — women I believe would have great insight on this topic in their own unique and beautiful way.
The three women are Jenn Kavanagh, Jenna Lane, and Dorothy May. Jenn is a wedding photographer, and leader of TuesdaysTogether, a monthly meeting of creative entrepreneurs who celebrate community over competition. Jenna is an event stylist pursuing creativity and adventure in everything she does. Dorothy May is a photographer and visual storyteller, specializing in engagement, family, and newborn photography.
In the digital age, we are connected to far more people online than ever before, yet we are left still craving more connection; the kind that comes with local community. There is an upside to online communities because they give you access to more people that you may relate to and share the same interests with. However, as Jenna puts it, “our online friends only see what we put forward, where our friends who know us and show up in person — they see behind the scenes and can call our blind spots.”
It’s easier to show our online “friend” circles the best version of ourselves, to truly sound and appear to be okay; but in person, people can tell when you’re not fine. For Jenn, she didn’t quite realize how important community was until she found it. She says that “Having colleagues, friends, and peers to turn to when you need support or to ask a question is invaluable as an entrepreneur who is operating a business without a manual. Life may be going good for you right now, but even then, community can enrich your life that much more; it’s worth searching for.”
Dorothy also shares that a great part about community is the people within it are often very willing to help each other, to learn and grow together. “There is usually a healthy mix of people from different religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds so that we accept differences and display tolerance and reset at all times,” she explains.
There are so many groups out there that it can at times feel a bit daunting on where to begin. “There are those that are for people suffering loss or in grief, those in a creative sphere, career-building communities, they all build us up” Dorothy reassures.
For Jenna, after she moved back to Hamilton, she had to rebuild the feeling of community she once had here. The groups she was a part of before had changed and she felt alone, so she searched for new ones. It’s not an easy task saying that, “At times, it has felt weird asking people I essentially don’t know if they want to come to have a drink with me and my other friend, or want to join in on a dinner party I’m throwing.” Over time, she admits that this method did work.
The common thread between the approach to and every type of community is that you have to put yourself out there. Regardless of why or what kind you are looking for, it requires you to be vulnerable and not hold back.
“As human beings, we need a sense of belonging, and that sense of belonging is what connects us to the relationships we develop,” Dorothy explains.
Chances are that the community you’re looking for already exists and you’re only one message away from dramatically improving your life. But if you’re unable to find your niche, creating your own can be just as rewarding. Begin a monthly meetup and increase your frequency as you grow.