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civic engagement community community engagement personal engagement personal engagement social change

Building Community through Personal Engagement

Bigger than anything we can understand, community is one of the most blatant expressions of personal engagement in our  lives. With the strands of personal engagement gracefully roiling across all existence, community allows us to experience the direct and obvious integrity of sustaining connections within ourselves and in the world around us.

Connecting Community and YOU

When I associate community with personal engagement, I am talking about all forms of community that exist around us, whether geographical, identity-oriented, or anything else.

When we consciously engage in community in order to sustainably connect with others, we activate personal engagement. Community instantaneously becomes groups of loving, caring people who support our well-being. Within community we grow by supporting others’ growth, watching each other flourish in genuine love for one another. Its not automatic bliss, either: As humans, we still go through the rhythms of humanity while in community. We may wrestle and hug, struggle and nurture; challenge becomes opportunity in an instant though, and we recognize the truth about those we commune with.

Personal engagement allows community to be about more than potlucks, shared cultural activities, or common work. It is more holistic, acknowledging the broad nature of all the people within, allowing us to have our perceived foibles and inabilities, insecurities and hurts. It allows community to be unlimited, and in that, community can become a lot for each of us. By consciously sustaining engagement, communities can become non-exclusive, allowing room for many people from many perspectives to come through our lives in the natural order of life, like tides washing on a beach and back out again. They hold and nurture all, while encouraging journey and outgrowth.

3 Points for Sustaining Connections

Make Sure Its Real. A perfect meal is not raced, no matter who is eating it. It is experienced as a unique culinary treat, from the gathering of the ingredients to the cooking and baking of the deliciousness to the serving and devouring of all that is good in a meal. Make sure your engagements reflect the same realness. 

Feel Whether Its Right. A lot has been said about the compass within each of us that intuitively knows what is right or wrong. However, not nearly enough has been said that this compass is always right. Its always on, and works in all ways to determine whether your engagements are right. You can feel their rightness within you, and when they’re not right for you, you will feel that as well. Trust your judgment.

Trust It Will Last. This last point might be the most important. At the end of the day, every connection in your life lasts exactly as long as it needs to. While a person, place or event is in our presence, we feel connected to it. However, there are lingering effects that go on and on, like the feeling you get when you think of a time, or the ideas that come to you stemming from some people. Those are signs of engagement, too. When you truly stop being connected, you will not know the absence of the connection because you will have stopped thinking, feeling, and experiencing it.

 

Appearing Contradictory

While all that happens, communities engaged through personal engagement enact an apparently contradictory purpose: By connecting people more effectively with each other, communities serve to connect individuals more effectively within themselves. This is the wonderful power and possibility represented by personal engagement. We become more connected within ourselves when we’re more connected to others! This means that we do not have to give up our families or neighborhoods, or move to remote monasteries in distant lands. We don’t have to sacrifice anything, ultimately. All our terrible experiences, all our misgivings and transgressions… In personal engagement-centered communities these become learning spaces that unveil the depth, breadth, and purpose of humanity. It can be wonderful.

Points of engagement strung on a thread of community...
Points of engagement strung on a thread of community…

If you are concerned that none of your communities seem to be built on personal engagement, do not fret. If you look within yourself and find your own sustained connections to the world within you and around you, you will quickly discover that your personal engagement is intact right now. When we see our personal engagement, it will start becoming apparent in the world around us, including the communities we belong to. You can start expressing personal engagement right now, no matter where you are. Build community in your favorite coffee shop or at work, among your best friends or at church. You can build community at a pickup basketball game or even at the bar, simply by living your truth and not lying to yourself or others. Because ultimately, that is what personal engagement connects us to: Our selves.

Acting Together

The more people who act together through personal engagement within a community, the more integrity is expressed within, throughout, among, and by that community. That is what personal engagement truly is, as well: integrity. Speaking of the integrity of his struggling nation, Abraham Lincoln once powerfully declared, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” In the same way, it is the integrity within that allows us to demonstrate integrity outside ourselves. A community devoid interior integrity cannot express integrity, just like a person who is does not have integrity within themselves cannot act in integrity towards others, despite their best intentions. Discovering your personal engagement is the surest, most powerful, most effective way to come into alignment with your integrity, and to live that integrity every single day.

Personal engagement is the invisible binding force that simultaneously draws everything inward while connecting everything outwardly in an eternal agreement called universal engagement. Community allows us to experience universal engagement directly. Connect within yourself to build community – this is the only real way.

By Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker, writer, trainer, researcher and advocate who researches, writes and shares about education, youth, and history.

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