Theme of the Month: Community

Theme of the Month: Community

In a 1943 paper about motivation American psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized that humans have five levels of needs in a pyramid shape, with basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid (think food, water, shelter, rest, health, and safety) and more high-level, intangible needs (think self-respect, self-esteem, and self-actualization) at the top. A person can only move on to addressing the higher-level needs when their basic needs are adequately fulfilled.

Interestingly, one of the basic needs that we share as humans is the need for love and belonging, the need to have solid connections with friends and family. For Maslow, this need to belong falls into the same category as food, water, shelter, etc. It’s a must. Without it, we perish.

For most of us, our attempts to meet this need were thwarted during the past year because of the pandemic. While we spent an inordinate amount of time with our closest family members who live with us, many of us did not see our own parents or elderly relatives for over a year.

As the world attempts to “re-open” and to re-establish these connections, our thoughts turn toward concepts like community and the importance of gathering. Humans are social creatures who feel validated by telling stories, laughing, and explaining things in groups. While we narrate our experiences to each other, we normalize the complicated process of “being a human being.”

Priya Parker, the author of a fascinating 2018 book called The Art of Gathering, asks three questions of us as we prepare to reconvene, post-pandemic:

1.) What did you long for when we couldn’t physically gather?

2.) What did you discover that you want to keep?

3.) What types of gathering need reinvention?

It might be interesting to ask yourself and your family members what they come up with when they ponder these questions. When we’ve been deprived of something as basic as the ability to spend time together, our perspective shifts dramatically

My desire for community and belonging seems to have quadrupled lately. I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for being able to gather with loved ones and friends, to travel, to eat inside again with friends. What a blessing to be in each others’ company again, to share stories, and to validate each others’ experiences and interpretations of this precarious world in which we’ve all been living.

Enjoy the rebuilding of your community this summer. Make an effort to reach out to those who might not feel a sense of belonging quite as easily. As Maslow reminds us, that need for belonging is as crucial to our survival as food and water!