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A Community Centered Life
by Earle Donelson, Ph.D.
Counseling Psychologist
Samaritan Counseling Centers

Before the global catastrophe precipitated by the terrorist attacks on America, I had written several articles about the human need for community. After those tragic events, I stopped to rethink the real meaning, at least for me, of what it is to exist in community. The word community evolved from the various forms of the words communion and/or communal, which mean to be a part of or to be involved in. As the Gospel was spread by the original disciples and Christians, a community of believers was formed. In turn, villages and communities often grew in association with the local church. Today, the term community can have myriad different meanings.

After the tragic events of September 11, the word community was used in a larger context. The "World Community" was frequently used in the context of the global response to the events. We have seen many parts of the world and our nation come together as a community. It has been exemplified by countless acts of heroism, bravery, involvement, selflessness, sacrifice, unity and faith, among others.

Closer to home, I took some time to re-examine my idea of community. There are subtle adjustments here and there but in general, it remained the same. Several years ago, there was a book titled It Takes a Village. The author was vilified by some and praised by others for the concept of "The Village." For the purpose of this article (and to temper some of the possible reactions to that term) I would like to substitute the word "community" for the word "Village."

When I think of community, I see an interactive, interdependent group of individuals working and living together for the betterment of their community and themselves. My personal community consists of family, friends, co-workers, people in the neighborhood and the city and, in a larger sense, my country and the world. It consists of my spiritual views and my spiritual community, my morals and ethics. It consists of my view of discipleship, my responsibility and commitment to my community.

My own sense of and need for community also drives my desire to offer that same communion to others: the less fortunate; the neighbor who needs help with her yard; my involvement with charitable causes, etc. It's volunteering my time and pitching in to help the community. It is the giving to, and receiving from, the community that makes and creates community. For me, community is being spiritually active and putting my Christian beliefs and values into action. As Jimmy Carter once said, "Faith is a verb." Being active in one's community brings with it a sense of comfort, support, reward and renewal.

Years ago, St. Francis expressed my idea of being part of a community in his prayer:

O Lord our Christ, may we have Thy mind and Thy spirit: make us instruments of Thy peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is discord, union. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. O Lord, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console. To be understood as to understand. To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

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