Last night I attended a community business meeting at which a group of participants were talking about an absent person who had earned a bad reputation. Most of the people in the group were clearly incensed at something the absent person hadn’t done right, but a few others said we should forget the past, all be friends, and have a unified community.
I will mention that I live in a small town.
The thought of having a nice, calm and peaceful, unified community is a touching, positive, and idealistic thought. But the reality is, this community is unlikely ever to be unified… unless we were being attacked by a common enemy, and even then it would more likely be ‘every man for himself’.
In larger towns and cities, nobody expects friendliness and unity from everyone living in the municipality. For example, it would be patently impossible to imagine the city of San Francisco as a united, friendly community. There’s a lot of crime, and many groups that simply don’t see eye-to-eye. Still, it is a great place to visit and even living there can be a lot of fun. Diversity of opinions doesn’t make it a bad place. It does make it a normal place.
If a big city can’t be 100% friendly and unified, why would someone expect that in a small town? I’ve lived in this small town 11 years now and have never seen community unity. I’ve seen a lot of people try it on, work with the concept, make efforts to create it… but still things happen that make it clear not everyone is happy with what others in the community are doing.
I used to belong to an organized religion that had, as one of it’s important tenets, the idea that everyone in a group should strive for unity. Yes, community unity was an important part of being a member of that religion, but could people maintain that high ideal?
Community unity doesn’t just happen.
Side-stepping problems by calling on the ideal of friendship and unity is unrealistic. Sometimes problems have to be worked through instead. When friction arises, look it in the face and acknowledge it, then decide what to do about it.
When all parties are mature enough to meet and discuss their differences without any of them trying to obtain an advantage over the others, there’s an opportunity for positive change. Pretending the problems don’t exist is never going to have the same effect. It will only deepen feelings of distrust, suspicion and fear.