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Introduction to Community

It is virtually impossible to describe community meaningfully to someone who has never experienced it - and most of us have never experienced true community.

Yet, it is essential that we learn the basic principles of community for our own individual lives and personal spheres of influence. They are part of the process of spiritual healing, the process of becoming whole - an on going process of becoming increasingly conscious. It is out of the strength of community that we are called to be people of integrity.

Community does not come naturally nor is it purchased cheaply. Demanding rules have to be learned and followed. Nevertheless, they are healing ones. We know there are rules for good communication. These rules work, yet they are seldom taught or practised. Consequently most people, including government, business and religious leaders do not know how to relate to each other. The rules of communication are best taught and only learned through the practice of community building. Fundamentally, the rules of communication are the rules of community building.

The purpose of these pages is to introduce you to these rules and encourage you to follow them.

The Different Drum

The ideas expressed here were written originally in a book by M. Scott Peck called The Different Drum (Rider & Co. 1988). Peck is the author of the best-selling book The Road Less Travelled which is the basis of THE ROAD™ Personal Development Course. The ideas Peck had for leading community building workshops led to the Foundation for Community Encouragement in 1984. From these experiences he wrote The Different Drum.

They were designed to accompany a community building experience led by THE ROAD™. However, they can also be read alone as an aid to personal growth and development or in preparation for your own work in community building. They will:

  • introduce you to the concept of true community;

  • deal with the inadequacies of "individualism" as a cultural phenomenon in society;

  • outline the stages of the community building process;

  • consider community maintenance; and

  • examine the dynamics of leading groups into community.

The hope is that, in learning them first in our personal lives, we can then apply them universally. Community building ultimately begins at grass-roots level. It begins with us.

True community is always, among other things, an adventure. You will always be going into the unknown, but you will not be alone. You will be entering this adventure with others. You will be able to share not only your fear, but your talents and strengths. Out of the strengths of your community you will be able to do things you never thought were possible.

Although genuine community is not easily achieved or easily maintained, few people could argue with its avowed goals: to seek ways in which to live with ourselves and with others in love and peace.

What Next?

After becoming familiar with the ideas in these pages you can help start communities - in your school, in your workplace, in your neighbourhood. Don’t worry about what to do beyond that for the moment. Don’t worry much yet about feeding the poor, housing the homeless or protecting the abused. It is not that such concerns are wrong or unnecessary, it is simply that they are not the primary concern. They are not likely to succeed unless they are first grounded in the experience of community. Form a community first! Remember that being takes precedence over doing. If you concentrate solely on making your community beautiful, its beauty will shine forth without you having to do anything at all, as long as you are not hiding away. You will not have to advertise, but leave the door open. Leave it open so that others can hear you laugh, cry or get glimpses of your faces or the way you touch each other. Leave it open so they can walk in and join you.