Creating Positive Community Identity

Experience the possibilities and joy that come from positive community identity by bridging the gap between the self and community.

| July 2014

  • The ability to create positive community identity, in a society that strongly values individualism, has become as important as self-identity.
    Photo by Fotolia/william87
  • “Deepening Community” by Paul Born beautifully illustrates how unity carries us through darkness and into light.
    Cover courtesy Berrett-Koehler

Paul Born believes we have a choice between shallow or deep community connections. Deepening Community (Berrett-Koehler, 2014) shows how we can foster the joy of deep connections with community. Born shares personal experiences of growing up among people displaced by war, insights from his career and results of interviews with over 500 people giving examples of the deep intimacy that can be found. Taken from chapter one, “Our Need Today for Deeper Community,” the following excerpt discusses the importance of community identity.

The Possibilities of Community Identity for Our Children

My wife, Marlene, and I often wonder about the possibilities of community for our sons and what their memories of community will be when they are older. How will they know who they are and where they belong?

We spoke about this shortly after the birth of our first son, Lucas. For us, community was a defining understanding of how we wanted to raise our children; it was even reflected in the wording of our marriage vows. We committed ourselves to providing our children (Michael would follow, five years later) with as many “deep” experiences of community as we could. We went to church because it was a community. We attended reunions of our extended families, organized neighborhood barbecues, and helped out at a variety of schools and with a myriad of sports teams, because each of these represented community in our sons’ lives.

We also spoke to them about community and its importance. For example, we shared a particular bedtime story with them many a night. I saw it as a nighttime prayer. As told to our son Michael, it went like this:

Once upon a time there was a little boy, and his name was Michael, and everybody loved him: his mom, and his dad, and his brother [Michael interrupted me one night, piping up with, “That’s not true, Dad; Lucas just likes me—he told me so”], his oma and opa [German for “grandma” and “grandpa”] and his lola [Filipino for “grandmother,” which we called Marlene’s mother after her sisters’ families returned from four years of volunteer mission work in the Philippines], and all his cousins [a satisfied grin always covered Michael’s face at this point; he really loved his cousins], and all the children at school, and everyone at his church [Michael always interjected “Not everybody,” to which I would say, “Just about everybody,” and he would say, “Yaaaa”], and all his neighbors [at which point Michael would beam and say, “Especially Dave and Marilyn; they have a pool”].

And I would smile and give him a big hug and say, “Love ya,” and Michael would say back, “Love ya, too. Goodnight.”

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