Answer #2

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Women Living Well - 2004

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Answer #2

Faye McGrath

Living in community is a challenging responsibility, communities are defined by values, norms, rules, codes, expectations etc. Why do tensions exist in communities, how is that tension useful and when is it too challenging? What can be done to gain a sense of mutuality within a community without giving up your individuality?

Living in a community is all about compromise. We must make sacrifices; we cannot always get what we want. Our goals and personal desires must sometimes be sublimated for the good of the group. It is this responsibility to compromise that makes living in a community a challenge.

When we live in a community, we gain something that is more than the sum of its parts. If everyone works together, then we all reap the benefits. Communities exist to service our needs and wants, but we must be prepared to give something back. We must be prepared to live within the rules and expectations that define the community.

The tension within a community is useful because it acts as a signal. It is a metaphorical ¡°Hey, look at me! There¡¯s something wrong here!¡± Tension helps us to isolate problems and fix them. A rule may need to be change; an expectation may no longer be viable within the group. Something needs to be done, since at least some members of the community feel that they are being ignored or their problem dismissed.

For example, the recent tension regarding marriage is a signal that something must be done about the issue. It must be addressed by the larger community, because the tension is reaching a boiling point. This example may also illustrate a situation that is too challenging. This is a national tension, one that may never be resolved to the satisfaction of all involved.

Part of living in a community is giving up something of yourself. You give back to the community when you can ¨C through work, or community service, or personal interests. You give up time and effort in order to make your world a better place. In this way, you become a part of something outside yourself; you are part of the community you serve.

Yet, our individuality is important. By giving to the community, you sacrifice something of yourself. But since this sacrifice benefits the community in which you live, you also gain the benefits. It is in choosing what sacrifice to make that we define our individuality. Those choices are the ones that make us who we are, that force us to choose what is most important to us.

For example, I am part of a small community within Bryn Mawr¡¯s campus: the Owl Investment Group. In that community, I give up my time and effort in order to make the group a success. However, those sacrifices enrich my life. I wouldn¡¯t be the person I am today without them.

In reality, I think that a community is a give and take proposition. It takes from us and it gives back to us. We are the only ones who can determine how much it gives and takes, however. I think it all depends on our level of involvement in the community.

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