If we want to be seen as a community we have to act as one. But what does this mean? A community is defined as a group of people who share something - with geographical communities what is shared is physical space. There are some communities defined as communities of shared experience such as groups for people with certain disabilities e.g. the Deaf community. For our faith community it is about shared interests. But what is the interest that we share?
We return again and again to the same place - which for me is about shared values and principles. We act as a community when together we make those values and principles real. I think that it is often the small things that reinforce our feelings of being together and acting well. For example, when one person has a good or bad experience we recognise that by connecting and marking the event e.g. by sending a card or a message.
Of course it is also about the big things - the way that we make decisions and the way that we handle potential conflict. For example if we know that someone is unhappy with a certain aspect of what we do, how do we handle this? Do we ignore it? Do we act defensively? Or do we engage in meaningful dialogue? Do we consider the finding of resolution a spiritual imperative or a do we think it stands in the way of our spiritual imperatives? How we deal with difficult situations holds up a mirror to our actions and lets us know if we are living our values.
Whilst our communities may have agreed values and principles it can be enlightening to understand what our own values and principles are. For me there are some clear drivers to how I behave. This is off the top of my head and so a little random and unformed.
(1) I commit to being present - perhaps when I am not feeling 'in' the mood' I make the effort to go and be there. Being present is not just physical presence but about emotional presence (hearing the feelings behind people's words and actions) and intellectual presence (engaging with our communities' thinking). And of course spiritual presence (holding onto faith)
(2) I bring my whole self - not just the good or even just the needy parts - but all of myself as a sign of commitment and faith.
(3) I commit myself to action - responding to information and sometimes taking the initiative to stimulate action.
(4) I am committed to learning from others.
(5) I commit to developing wisdom.
For not only are we working with our communities to act well, we are at the same time working with ourselves so that we may act well. In the Tao there is a lovely phrase, right action. In acting right as a community we have to act right as individuals - we aspire to be more than we are now.