Feeling Connected

Do you ever wake up and wonder about the purpose of life? More specifically, the importance of your life? Most of us experience those feelings of melancholy at some point. It may be just a fleeting moment, or it could be fuel for a day of philosophical thinking. 

I started to experience feelings of disconnection when I left the work world. Work had always provided me with a purpose, and I was surrounded by others who shared that purpose. That workplace community played an important role in my life for more than two decades. Now that I am no longer a part of that community, it is time to find another.

Community is very important, especially to someone living alone, like me.  COVID has made it difficult to feel part of any group. As a member of the Saskatoon Unitarian community, I can say that meeting over Zoom is better than nothing, but it doesn’t feel quite right. At services, I can’t touch people, give them a hug, ask individuals how they are… and after the services/meetings, I’m still here on my own! Last year,  I enjoyed making cards and sending them to members.  Some contacted me after that or even sent me a card.  That made me feel good. I owe a lot of hugs.     -Patricia Pavey

What is a community? Well, simply put, it is any group of like-minded people who come together to share common interests, beliefs, values, and experiences. A community can be virtual, or it can be in a fixed place. Communities are usually small and specific to personal social ties, but they can also be large group affiliations. Communities, big and small, bring people together and operate within the same structures and boundaries that meet the needs of their members. 

“The word “community” has a strange power to it. It conveys a sense of togetherness and positivity. It speaks both of solidarity and homeliness,” says Toby Lowe, visiting professor at the Centre for Public Impact, a not-for-profit group founded by the Boston Consulting Group. 

So, humour me for a minute. Close your eyes and think of a time when you felt connected. A time when you felt you had a purpose and were surrounded by others sharing that same purpose. If work is the first thing that pops into your mind, gently push it aside and try to think of another time. What are you doing? Who are you with? How do you feel?

Besides the exercise, clogging is like being with close family members once a week. The camaraderie and friendships are “so comfortable”. Many, many connections over the years. What do I get out of it? Happiness! -Karen Burlock

Chances are, you will be surrounded by people who share the same values as you do. These values will be rooted in the way you were raised, but they may be different than the ones you held close as a child or as a young adult. Values change depending on our life experience and current situations, but those such as kindness, honesty, freedom, etc. are sure to be anchored in your soul. 

It is very important for us, as social beings, to have a sense of community. Being part of a community provides a sense of belonging. It allows us to feel that we are a part of something greater than ourselves, which decreases isolation, depression, and hopelessness. 

I was never very athletic as a kid. So when I started playing pickleball I found it hard to catch on. I still feel like a learner after four years but I keep going. I thought I was going for the exercise but I’ve realized I go for the connections even more. We have an awesome bunch of people playing at the school. Being part of this group is what I’ve been missing since I retired. -Cheryl Betke

“Community is an abundant, ever-changing flow of spontaneous friendliness that might only be there for a precious moment,” says Elaine Smookler, a registered psychotherapist and faculty member at the Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto. 

Being part of a community has many benefits. Communities provide: 

  • Opportunities to learn from others, to improve existing skills, explore new trends, and receive support and encouragement.
  • The opportunity to share a passion for something builds confidence.
  • The sense of gratification from helping others.
  • The feeling of being connected.
  • Empowerment and motivation. 
  • A safe and welcoming space to practise your passion with others who share the same vision. 

Yes, communities play a big role in our lives. They unite us. They inspire us. So how do you find a community to join? It’s all about knowing yourself and being able to identify what feeds your soul. 

As you did at the beginning of this blog, close your eyes, and this time, think about what you do that makes you happy. Do you like to play sports? Do you like to paint? Write? Play an instrument? Do you like to walk? Play cards? Discuss? Debate? Pray? How much time are you spending doing those things? You may be surprised to note that you aren’t spending enough time doing the things that feed your soul, but occupying your time with other things, “just because”. Once you know what you like to do, you can start searching for online or local groups that feel the same way. Google is your friend! Talk to your other friends—they probably know someone who knows someone that is involved in something you would like to do.

For example, I like to walk, but I need to have a purpose. I don’t like going around the block. I like to explore. I shared this one day with some friends, and Joanne said, “You should try geocaching!” My reply was, “Yea, I’ve heard of that, but I don’t know anything about it.” The next thing I know, I’ve got the app, I’ve joined the official online group, and I’m logging caches everywhere I go. Plus, it turns out there is a local geocaching group. I’m now on the board! I was amazed at the sense of community at my first event. A group of people, with absolutely nothing in common but a love of geocaching, standing around a bonfire, sharing experiences. It was wonderful! It was obvious by the good-natured bantering and conversations that this group has bonded and enjoys each other’s company. 

If you like being physically fit, or would like to be, there are many different communities within the fitness realm, and overall, they share the same characteristics.

“I think the main reason why physical activity is so important as we age is to allow us to live our best life and to be able to live independently. “No one ever says, “I can’t wait to go to long-term care,” but if we aren’t physically active, it’s often just a matter of time,” says Kimberly Willison, BRS, Senior Recreation Therapist with the Community Older Adult team at the Saskatchewan Health Authority. “Physical activity is beneficial to reduce our risk of falls, to prevent chronic conditions and just to make us feel better! It is hard to feel blue when your cheeks are pink. Willison and her team support the Forever. . .in motion program, which is a physical activity program for older adults, and the Staying on Your Feet program, a fall reduction and injury prevention program within Saskatoon.

If you are looking for a fitness community but are unsure where to start, Willison suggests: 

· Find a friend or family member to move with and help motivate each other. 

· Find something that you’d like to try, as you’ll be more motivated to do it if it is something you enjoy. 

· Every little bit counts! Even start snacking on activity with 10 min a day, work up to 2-3 bouts of 10 min a day and you will find it is easier than you think.

“Motion is lotion! So, keep moving if you want to be able to keep active well into your later years!” says Willison

Being part of a community is well worth the time, whether it be a small group that enjoys playing mahjong once a week or a large online group that likes to share ideas about climate change. If you aren’t already part of one, what’s holding you back? You will be surprised at how good it feels to be connected!

Interesting Links:

Saskatoon Unitarian minister, Rev. Karen Fraser Gitlitz shares her thoughts on community.

Finding Community — Awakening at Home  

What is the Importance of a Community – Social Mettle

What Is Community, and Why Is It Important? | The Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning & Dialogue | Cambridge, MA

What is Community? A Sociological Perspective (vcn.bc.ca)

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