Recently Tiny House Talk posed the following question on their Facebook page:
Quick question.. where would you want to park & live in your tiny house? A. On your own land/lot B. In an RV park C. Backyard D. In a Community of Tiny Homes.
As the day passed and even the next day I followed the responses. It seemed that the overwhelming response was A. Most people preferred to have a tiny house on their own land. This got me wondering about where community actually fits in to the tiny house lifestyle. And please understand, when I say tiny house I am referring not just to a Fencl with cedar siding and a skylight over the sleeping loft but also park models, RVs, houseboats, yurts, and the like. I am beginning to define a tiny house as almost anything under 300 sq.ft. Please don’t quote me on that but please know that there is where my mind is these days.
When we first moved to rural eastern North Carolina I knew that it was going to be a bit of an isolated environment. Certainly we’d have family right next to us and virtually all around us in the community. And after living in both Paris and Brooklyn the idea of “breathing room” was one I was looking forward to embracing. Besides that we were ready to expand our gardening and begin raising animals so the notion of space and room to move was not just a preference but a necessity. By month 3 though I realized that there is a huge difference between said “breathing room” and utter isolation. Sometimes days would pass where Crystal and I would see no one other than each other. If it weren’t for the Internet we would be little more than pioneers in a strange land. To interact with folks we had to travel. That means we had to get in the car and drive anywhere between 17 miles (her parents house) and 34 miles (the closest city). It was taxing to say the least and our ability to really connect with community was limited by a number of factors. That inability to connect quickly led to doubt, boredom, concern, mild depression, and even resentment and then manifest itself in weight gain, stress headaches, short tempers, and complacency. By month 6 I was realizing how utterly important community and human connection truly is.
Anthony J. D’Angelo – teacher, leader, and curriculum developer – is quoted as saying “Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.” I had ceased to care and therefore I had ceased to search for a sense of community. I knew something had to give and so I began to research the very idea of community. What is a community? Who comprises the community? What is the history of the community? What are the needs of the community? What are the relationships within the community? Sounds very academic doesn’t it? Truth is, we do this everyday whether we know it or not. Let’s start with the most simple question.
WHAT IS A COMMUNITY?
While we traditionally think of a community as the people in a given geographical location, the word can really refer to any group sharing something in common. This may refer to smaller geographic areas — a neighborhood, a housing project or development, a rural area — or to a number of other possible communities within a larger, geographically-defined community. These are often defined by race or ethnicity, professional or economic ties, religion, culture, or shared background or interest:
- The Christian community (or faith community, a term used to refer to one or more congregations of a specific faith).
- The arts community
- The Anglo-Saxon (or white people, as I call them) community
- The education community
- The business community
- The homeless community
- The medical community
- The Southern community
- The elderly community
These various communities often overlap. A white art teacher, for example, might see himself (or be seen by others) as a member of the white, arts, and/or education communities, as well as of a particular faith community. An Italian woman may become an intensely involved member of the ethnic and cultural community of her Jewish husband. Whichever community defines your direct region, you will want to get to know if you want to connect with community. Why do I even raise this topic?
In those first months of tiny house living I was missing the larger picture. I was trying to desperately to take my whole existence and make others accept it. The result was I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. I was a square peg trying to force myself into a hole. What I was missing was an understanding of the community I had moved to. My home in North Carolina sits on the eastern seaboard. It is complex mix of farmers and fishermen. Jeans are the attire of choice and trucks are the main transportation. WalMart is not just a store but a community meeting hall and church is to Sunday what gravy is to biscuits. Folks are skeptical of doctors and hippies are anyone that doesn’t feel like Johnny Cash was the 13th disciple. It is also a community that can put their hands in soil and tell you what will grow there as well as how much acid and sulfur are deposited there. They can make a meal out of cornmeal and anything that once had a pulse and they can generally catch fish from as little as a puddle left over from the afternoon rain shower. They love big but are cautious of outsiders. Understanding this was the key to becoming part of the community. Once I began to embrace my new home and start to understand and even adopt some of the nuances before me I began to feel better about who I was in this region.
So how does one go about assimilating into community or even creating a community?
Stay tuned to a post later this week to find out our 5 Ways to Become Part of a Community.