In my last post I discussed the community Cedric and I live in and how La Casita has brought neighbors to our door. I’d like to continue exploring this topic in terms of how you create and sustain community. I’ve been involved with several non-profits and grassroots groups over the past 8 years that have helped me learn about community building. These experiences, especially bicycle advocacy, assisted us in building community around tiny houses in Charleston. My hardest lesson, however, has been learning how to sustain the community we create.
In 2008, Cedric and I along with a group of friends founded the Holy City Bicycle Cooperative (HCBC). It was the first community I had been a part of that found its beginnings on the internet. Cedric had started a website without knowing a single person in the biking community but a simple site brought together a group who had all been working separately. Through our combined efforts we had a co-op within a month. I actually met Cedric for the first time at that meeting and when I left I was amazed at how quickly the internet had brought us all together. The Tiny Life is a fantastic example of an online community supporting and encouraging a physical community. Hearing stories, exploring other’s projects and being able to stay easily connected is essential to growing and sustaining any community.
Besides the wonders of the internet, networking has been a driving force in my experiences in community organizing. Conferences are an awesome way to meet and learn from others doing similar work. HCBC members used to attend a conference held once a year called Bike!Bike! Different cooperatives hosted each year for 3 days of workshops, races and potlucks. When we came home we had increased energy and renewed excitement in our projects within the cooperative. I’d love to help organize a conference for tiny house enthusiasts and have a chance to network and learn from all the rad folks out there that are creating a wider support group for other tiny lifers.
Visiting other projects is another way that we’ve built community which we learned when leading a community garden non-profit. The people behind the projects we assisted were always an incredible inspiration. We experienced further inspiration within the tiny house movement when we stopped in at Boneyard Studios in D.C. this past summer and checked out how they’re attempting to create community. It’s no easy task, with weary neighbors and hostile city zoning it’s persistent work that builds tiny house community. We’ve learned that connecting to people face to face is essential to such growth.
That is what we’ve attempted within our neighborhood-connection. I try to acknowledge everyone’s presence, from the children running through the streets to the dealers on the corner. I look people in the eye, ask how they are doing and acknowledge their presence. I often get the sense that folks don’t expect this. Some people look at me with surprise at being addressed. Being raised in the south where strangers often greet one another in the street, you’d think this would come more naturally to me. Alas, I was raised by a northerner and I was not instilled with this sense of southern manners. I have to push myself everyday to open up to strangers and take a moment, set my intent and actively greet people. And it’s paid off. I hear friendly voices in return, even from some of the most hardened looking of neighbors and that has been my reward. Friendliness as well as general respect.
I’m excited to see what Jay Shafer has up his sleeve with his new venture Four Lights as well as other community builders such as Boneyard Studios. It will be interesting to watch the progression of these and other movements. For me, living in community is the best way to live the tiny life so I’ll be keeping a close eye on these projects as well as any others that are out there. Collaboration breeds inspirations so let’s work together!
- What do you envision when you think of community?
- What actions do we take as individuals to continue moving towards supporting one another in building community?