When I was younger the word “community” did not hold much meaning to me. I thought of my community as the town where I lived; simply the geographical space that held my house, church, and school was my “community.” As I have grown up and been lucky enough to be involved in groups and spaces that have shown me the meaning of community, I have realized that true community is so much more than the town that surrounds you, community is alive. It is made of people and relationships and support and mutuality, not physical space or geographic surroundings. I have come to learn that a community is not granted simply by being in a space with other people, community seeds bloom and grow through investments and intention.
I first started to think about community was when I went to university and lived away from home for the first time. I lived at a university college on the edge of Waterloo’s campus called Grebel. Grebel is a small residence of only about 200 students. With roots in the Mennonite faith, Grebel has a strong value of community which it lives into in many ways, such as meal sharing, an open door policy and filling the first empty seat at an available table so no one sits alone. Looking back, living at Grabel was one of the best choices I made as a young adult. Grebel is where I found some of my most cherished relationships and began to personally develope my value and understanding of community.
Another community I have been involved in is The GO Project, my beloved summer camp. I love being involved in the GO community as it brought together like-minded young adults from across Canada to work, learn and grow together. Being involved in the GO community taught me that there can be endless bounds to a community relationship and we are not limited to the people that are closest to grow our community. For those of us who grew up in small towns, the pools for community can be limited but don’t settle for this loneliness and do not accept a fate of endlessly being misunderstood. Take a leap and branch out!! With technology, social medial and travel, our world is constantly getting smaller, therefore, creating endless opportunities for connection and community. If you are willing to put in the effort to find and invest in new relationships, they are out there for you. The Go Project taught me that community can span cross-country and when you find people who make you feel good at being yourself, hold on to them, FaceTime them, call them, make an effort to see them when you can, these relationships are life forces. Your people are out there, sometimes they might take a while to find but “we accept the love we think we deserve”, so challenge yourself to find a community that sees and understands why you are so worth loving. Challenge yourself to plant seeds far and wide until the right community begins to germinate and bloom.
Now, as a freshly graduated, young adult I am at the start of a new opportunity of living in an “intentional community” in Toronto called Flourish House. Flourish House is a physical house where I live with two roommates. Flourish house looks a lot like a normal shared living arrangement, yet there is an intentional decision to invest in our home community beyond a regular roommate relationship. We cook together, eat together, celebrate together, talk to each other and care for each other in a way that more mimics a family. Living in this home makes me endlessly reflect on my value of community and my gratitude for finding a small place where I belong in the big, lonely city of Toronto.
At Flourish House a few weeks ago we engaged in a values workshop with a facilitator who helped us identify specific values in our lives. She explained to us the importance of identifying and naming your values as they help you guide your life in a direction that is meaningful to you. When faced with a large decision, which as young adults can happen daily, consulting clear values can assist us in making the best choice for our own life satisfaction. Through this workshop I uncovered that my greatest values are community and meaningful relationships, which as I look back at the “big” choices I have already made, I can see this value as a silver lining, shimmering through the quilt of my life thus far. I am proud of the time and intention I have placed on these values as they have brought me meaning and happiness. I chase spaces where authentic and meaningful experiences can be shared and supported. I invest in relationships that feel powerful and life-giving. I care for those around me and hold my communities to a standard of mutual investment when I need that care in return. I love to love and be loved. I love to show love and receive love. I love to belong to something rooted deeper and stronger than my individual self. I love to live in community because love is alive in communities.
Amy is a fresh grad with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation. University does not come naturally to a person with a learning disability, making Amy uniquely proud of her undergraduate accomplishments. Amy is working to be more open about her disability and strives to view her learning challenges as an opportunity for growth in resilience and creativity.
She has worked with rehab patients, people with disabilities, veterans and mental health clients searching for more equitable access to community recreation. She believes wholeheartedly in the therapeutic benefit of doing what you love, as often as you can.