I once read that the only answer in this life, to the loneliness we are all bound to feel, is community. Beautiful.
I came across the term intentional communities a few weeks back and it got me thinking, particularly so after a recent trip to Raglan. What does it mean and why does it resonate so? Well it turns out its meaning was not quite what I had felt (I’ll let you google it) so I thought I would make up my own definition off the cuff, as I believe there is real power in the term.
‘An inclusive community with a vision of who and what they are, with collective agreement to stay true to the course’.
For a long time now things have just happened. People often aren’t included or even notified, things pop up and occasionally fall over. There is often no ‘intent’ - no calculated agreement of who the community wants to be – it just comes about (and there are examples all over the Far North of this, think Whatuwhiwhi for one). This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, I am struck by the growing lack of connection or dis-connect that can arise when things evolve, often for the benefit of the few and the impacts, particularly on small communities, is not fully realised.
When I think of the words intentional in the community sense, I envisage planned and agreed pathways, with agreed intent of who and what that community is. A living example, in my eyes, is Raglan. They have an impressive commitment to recycling, minimal use of plastics and what feels like, a genuine commitment to looking after their place. You can feel the vibe, quite literally.
I used to describe Paihia as a place that just happened, no planning, no forethought. And 10 years ago, one could describe the community as disconnected/transient, no heart I think was the term used. Today, although there are still a few fractions, it does have a vibrant heart and a sense of pride in what the locals have achieved. None of this happened by accident. The community came together and agreed on a pathway, took action and lead the way.
So why might this be important? Building resilience for one. Strengthening connections and growing a community of inclusive, committed citizens is another. Although I didn’t recognise it at the time, growing up in Russell, I clearly remember a sense of connection to my community. People looked out for one another (including the time my father thought that I had drowned swimming off the wharf, only to learn that I had taken a trip with a mate to Paihia on the ferry - I was in big trouble that night). Pretty much, everyone knew everyone and you felt that sense of belonging.
Intentional means deliberate, on purpose. Imagine what the Far North and its many communities might achieve if we became far more intentional in how we went about doing what we do. We might just lead the way for a better tomorrow 😉