Here at Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, we are community-builders. Our mission is “strengthening community by connecting people, resources and needs.” The focus, as you would expect from a community foundation, the “community’s foundation,” is on community.
I read that community can be defined by “the shared attributes of the people in it, and/or by the strength of the connections among them.”
In my own words, “Commonalities define community.” Commonalities may be geographic (the Lowcountry community), or cultural (the African American community), or economic (the 1%). Commonalities may be based on education (the Buckeyes), or religion (the Catholic Church), or politics (the Green Party), or interests (the antique car community) or even age (the retirement community). And each of us belongs to a number of different communities.
However, one of the most important communities to me, as a mission-driven community-builder and as the CEO of a community foundation, is the human community. When I think about “strengthening community,” I think about those with whom our shared humanity is the most important attribute.
Recently I was reading some of the words of Mr. Fred Rogers, the acclaimed producer of children’s educational television programming. And of course, “community” for me might be described as “neighborhood” by him.
Here are some of his words that most touched me:
“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors—in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”
“We want to raise our children so that they can take a sense of pleasure in both their own heritage and the diversity of others.”
“In every neighborhood, all across our country, there are good people insisting on a good start for the young, and doing something about it.”
“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
“The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away.”
There is so much that all of us, not only children, could stand to learn from Mr. Rogers about what it is to be part of a neighborhood—part of the human community. There is so much each of us can and should do. Helping, giving, listening, learning and respecting are all part of community-building. I ask this of all reading this: that you live generously. And as Mr. Rogers noted: “…what is really exciting to me is to see people with differing views come together and finally respect each other.” This is community-building at its finest.
Denise K. Spencer is President and CEO of Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. www.cf-lowcountry.org