Middle Main

A neighborhood just a little off center

People are always asking me for ideas on how they can become more involved in our Middle Main efforts, and the community in general. While there is always work to be done (researching, surveying, grant writing, outreach, etc.), there are ways you can change your own individual thoughts and actions that can lead to becoming more community-minded, and hopefully build the creative energy that leads to wider action and concrete change. For a lot of us, this is an easier first step, especially when faced with what can seem the overwhelming task of comprehensive, inclusive neighborhood revitalization. And, the old adage of leading by example is especially true of any community effort. If others see you leading your personal life in a manner consistent with goals of sustainability and diversity, they will follow, and snowball into a whole neighborhood of people working towards a common vision.

I've reprinted this article from Yes! magazine to help get you started.

10 Courageous Things You Can Do to Build Community by Milenko Matanovic

Building strong communities is critical, hard work. I feel it’s one of the most courageous, important things each of us can do every day. We can speed up the realization of good community building ideas if we live our lives consistent with community priorities. The good news: practically every activity and every moment grants us the opportunity to practice community-minded behavior.

Here are 10 ways you can start the courageous work of building community today.

1.Take interest in other people’s passions as much as you want them to be interested in yours. We all have ideas for how life should be. The thing is that, unless we are unsurpassed geniuses, we only see a small part of the picture. Asking others what they see can only enhance understanding.
2. Become a mentor to others less involved in their community. In every community there is a small, overworked group of leaders who try to figure out everything for everyone. They go to all the meetings and take on huge loads of work while others are silent—until it is time for them to complain. This will not do. If you are such a leader, mentor someone with less experience. If you are not, approach someone and ask them to mentor you.
3. Support a cause with no direct personal benefit. We are involved with things we care about the most. That’s natural. My experience tells me, however, that the most interesting and possibly most important discoveries happen in the spaces between interests and disciplines and ideologies. Step outside your natural zone—it’s necessary for uncovering new solutions.
4. Invite “them” to your meeting. It is convenient to show our importance by pitting “us” against “them.” But “they” may have insights that will help us better understand the problem and appreciate the marvelous tensions that form a healthy community.
5. Reject the tendency to blame. Everyone plays a role in the problem and everyone must participate in the solution. Practice compassion towards those who, like ourselves, unwittingly contribute to the problem they wish to solve.
6. Confront internal contradictions. Claiming that the problem is someone else's doing conveniently absolves us from doing our part. If I drive my car to a transportation meeting and complain about traffic jams, it’s necessary that I acknowledge my contribution to that traffic. At the very least, acknowledge the irony of the situation.
7. Practice industrial-strength listening. Do not react until you’ve received.
8. Render unto community… Shrink your home to what is necessary and conduct the rest of your life in the community. For example, resist a “theater” room and visit your local theater instead. Anytime you bump into others you make your community a bit stronger.
9. Clarify your image of the future. I find that most decisions we make are shaped by impulses so deeply ingrained we fail to be aware of them. Unexamined impulse is prejudice. Examined impulse, once confirmed, is guidance that leads to something better. Examine your embedded assumptions, embrace the relevant ones, and discard the rest. What remains is a clear intuition, an image of a possible future. Then engage with others to make it a reality.
10. Resist the temptation to choose between the ideal and the reality. Hold them both in your awareness. Learn to enjoy the creativity and humor this tension offers. It can be quite funny.

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