Have you ever wished you had a personal community center? A place where you could go drop off your kids for two hours so you could have a little down time or share a cup of coffee with another adult? A place where you could learn how to change our spark plugs and save $100 from the car repair shop? A place where you could bring an ingredient to share and have a community meal? A place where someone would pray with you, counsel, or just listen to the issues your struggling with--even just that day.
In American Culture we often have a hard time finding that place. You can always Join a gym--and the YMCA will even watch your kids for two hours while you work out. You can go to the library or search the internet for how to change the spark plugs in your vehicle, But it's not the same as having someone help you. You can pay someone to watch your kids, or clean your house, or cook your meals, or listen to your problems. But few can afford to pay for all of these luxuries. Wait, are these really luxuries? Is it too much to ask for a nap every day and have someone supervise your children?
Some may say a resounding, "Yes!" Why are people so adamant that a nap everyday is not feasible? Because we've been taught that. We are told that by educators and employers who require us to work through most of the daylight hours everyday. But this is an America Perspective. In Latin America, they have a standard nap time called a siesta. Having this national nap time affects the things such as giving them 4 rush hours per day instead of 2. Dinner is also eaten later--closer to 8 or 10 pm.
I'm not suggesting that we institute a national siesta. But what if you found a way to make it work for you. For instance, say your a home maker and you'd like a break fro m your kids for a couple hours. Well, what if you found another homemaker down the street? Suppose you worked out a deal. First, she agrees to watch your children from 10 am until 1pm so you can nap. Then you return the favor from 1pm until 3pm so she can nap.
Does that sound unrealistic?
Because it's not normal to cooperate in America. We have a strong cultural belief that every worthwhile service requires a monetary value. If someone gives you a product or a service then you must pay them. But doesn't the above sound like a good trade? Time to sleep for some time for your kids to play with some other kids? Time is a much more valuable commodity than money because it contributes to our actual lifestyle. Just think of the benefits of a nap just from a physical, stress-management perspective. Give your chance a body to recharge. Give yourself a chance to miss your kids. Restore your patience.
Why is it not a cultural norm for Americans to partner with each other in the community to help each other out?
Well, unfortunately, we place a lot of importance on the American Ideal of Independence. So much so, that we often feel shameful if we even consider asking someone for help. Instead we wait for someone to offer help. ... And well, in our busy culture, most people don't take a lot of time to help other people. In fact, most people don't even take the time to look around and see that other people have needs.
Why is that? Don't we all have needs?
Well, sure. But obviously, I am much busier than everyone else in my community. I see the women in my community and they look like they have it all together. Their children behave. They don't look as bedraggled as I do. I see the men in my community they are handy enough to fix things and keep their lawn mowed. They show up at work on time and never have to ask for help.
Is that really true? Is everyone in American doing okay in life? Are we all thriving?
I've got to say "No."
Unfortunately, our culture does not look favorably on people who ask for help. Often there is a stigma around government programs like Community Assistance Food Stamps, and even Women with Infants and Children (WIC). Why? Well likely because there are people that rely on government programs for sustainable living. People who don't utilize government assistance feel like they are being cheated because they have to spend their time working at a job that they don't like. It's simply not fair.
But what if there's a better way to make, spend, and save money?
What if you received Goods and Services from people that actually wanted to help you? What if you could exchange your Time and Money with people who shared your values? For your car repairs, child care, house fixes, and even entertainment. What if you found a way that you didn't have to cook every night of the week AND could save money on your grocery bill?
Well, there is a way.
Look at your Facebook friends. How many of them like to cook? How many of them would you like to share a meal with? Pick a few who are close by and start create community dinners. When everyone contributes--either cash or bringing certain items--feeding people in bulk is actually more cost effective. Of the 2-4 families/4-16 individuals, find one person who has a good space to host (large, clean, centrally located). Find another who likes to make homemade bread. Or learn how to yourself! It's very inexpensive and really just takes forethought to allow time for the bread to rise. Find another friends who grows vegetables. Usually a gardener ends up with more produce than they can eat themselves anyway. Ron Finley (the guerilla gardener) says that "Growing your own food is like printing your own money". Then have everyone chip into buy whatever is remaining.
While the above is a good way to save money, it is also complicated. There are logistics involved. People live busy lives. People don't like the same foods. However, with a willingness to talk to your friends, you could--theoretically--develop a community food program for only you and a small group of friends that will improve not only your budget, but also your social life.
This is not unrealistic. This is literally something you can do. You don't have to do it every week. But you could. You could even share meals with people multiple times a week. You could rotate who hosts. You could rotate who cooks. (The Host Home, does not have to be the cook, they just have to be willing to give up the kitchen).
This will require a Trade.
You will be trading a little Independence for a taste of Interdependence. You will have to create a blueprint for how the community meal will work for your friend group:
- Menu Choices (including identifying allergens, and picky eaters)
- Time Limit (The idea is not to go all night, because you'll see them again soon)
- Price expectations (People have many different thoughts around how to spend money on food)
- Meeting times and location(s)
- Role responsibility
You will have to do the initial work. You will have to discuss with one friend. Then if they agree, you may start with just the two of you. Then as you figure out what works, invite others to join. However, you could offer the idea to 3 of your close friends right away and work out a system together.
But just think if you could do a community meal once a week. With people you love to see. Where you can create a healthy meal for yourself and your family. This could potentially improve your
- reduce your monthly food budget
- improve your social life
- improve your friendships with the individuals
- provide a safe, entertaining place for your children to play with other children
This is one example of a way to capitalize on our Interdependent reality. We need to eat. We need to provide for our families. We like to be social--at least to some extent. So why not create a new experiment to improve your lifestyle.
Now go through your Facebook list. What other talents do you see? Know anyone who could fix your car? Know any musicians who could entertain for an evening? Know someone who can bake a fancy cake for your children's birthday? Someone who likes to Garden? Someone who's handy at fixing things? A computer whiz? Someone with money who can recommend financial planning? A skilled parenting consultant?
What skills do you have that you could trade for theirs? And even if you don't want to trade a meal for car repair... wouldn't it be more fun to give your friend money? Instead of some faceless corporation?
You can work harder... and Independently trade your time for money and trade money to other professional organizations for everything you can't do yourself.
You can work smarter... Corporations work because they are a pool of resources--many different individuals working together for a common purpose. Why would we choose to only work smarter at work, but not in our home lives?
You might wish for a Community Center where you can get all of the resources you require.
but I tell you...
Your friends, neighbors, and family
are the valuable resources your seeking.
And You are the center of that community.
Start Connecting the Dots!