By Richie Crowley
I’m here on a couch on the 21st floor of a building in Brooklyn watching the sun’s hairline disappear behind the New York City skyline. It’s Gloaming. And I’m reflecting on the contradiction of this concrete community.
It’s not just in New York that this exists, but it’s glaringly obvious here. Surrounded by people all day, there are opportunities for so many small but meaningful human interactions.
But when did we collectively decide not to talk to strangers? Since when do we not automatically have each other’s back? Since when do we not know our neighbors?
This weekend I experienced the depth of friend groups here in New York, people who love each other and have been connected for 10+ years, but still I sit back and wonder, why do so many of us only exhale into community once we are behind the locked door of a familiar apartment?
For some, it may be to protect ourselves. But for so many of us, it’s an unfortunate default.
What would an alternative look like?
• • •
Community, known to be the secret of longevity, has become a brunch buzzword distributed at the end of weeknight yoga classes in which we don’t know the name of the person on the mat next to us. But community isn’t an in-the-moment-only commitment, we must enroll in the practice of nurturing it on every level.
Many champion community as if it were a trend. Championing it, like me currently, in a digital environment: creating content from within walls that separate us from our housemates, within a space that shelters us from neighborly interactions.
But it’s the convenience of digital environments that make this construction of community the path of least resistance. Email, text, phone calls and facetimes have allowed us to be present for the intimate moments of each other’s lives with less effort than the methods used by generations before.
But, does this replace sharing a physical presence? And does community only apply to those we know?
For me, community is both. Community is created with each stranger that I smile at. Each driver that I wave to as they allow me to pass in front of them. Community is also sharing writings, answering every text and interacting through social media. It’s an effort, and it’s important.
So, am I asking you to decline phone calls and demand in-person interactions? No.
Am I asking you to introduce yourself to the person practicing next to you? Maybe.
Still, I’m asking for more.
• • •
Expand your community.
Imagine if every street you walked down, you saw a familiar face and smiled rather than loading the latest posts on Instagram. If at every grocery store you knew not only the clerks but the floor attendants. If you stopped in at a local shop, just to say hello.
Community is not only formed to have a support group to share defeat and celebration and it’s not a list of names saved for holidays cards and save the dates. Yes, community has these small groups inside them, the keepers of secrets, but community is also the humans who exist around us.
I use smiling at strangers, meeting eyes, and introducing myself to create a feeling of safety. To spread this peace of mind that we are all together. And as I bike across the country I think, what if everyone pursued community in the broader sense of the word?
• • •
The day I left Canton, my friend Sue Bonnano sent me off with a meditation that followed phrases to be focused at the people I would meet and communities that I would enter. We repeated:
I wish you peace.
I wish you safety.
I wish you health.
I wish you happiness.
If we wished these upon every person we met, how would that change the world?
Maybe that is my ask.
On Friday I visited The Campaign Against Hunger in Brooklyn, NY where we were able to donate 400 Veestro meals. To date, we have raised over 1,000. If you have donated a meal, thank you, you are truly changing this world through action.