I know the topic of community has been discussed a lot lately. And not just in Pagan circles. It has made me really think about just what community means to me. After the presidential election, I felt like part of a group that truly wants great things for our country. Some were willing to set aside party affiliation to see the other side did not have the average American's interest at heart. When a natural disaster strikes, it makes me proud to see those same average Americans chipping in what they can to help people, no matter where they're from. The tsunamis in Japan and India. The hurricane on the east coast. Tornadoes in Oklahoma, Missouri, and all over tornado alley. The victims were human and deserve the same consideration. And when some Christians try create lies and half-truths about the Pagan faiths, we try to band together in support.
So, at first, it surprised me to find people who didn't want any part of a Pagan community. Until I really read what they were saying. Because being Pagan means as many different things as the idea of community, it makes sense that trying to be one great "Pagan Community" is a lot like trying to lump the major monotheistic groups into one community. And for the many of us that choose a solitary path, that further muddies the water. I've tried doing the group thing, even on a small scale (2 or 3 other people). It is nice to have like-minded people to share with and learn from. But I still end up feeling like my more intimate, solitary work feels the most...for lack of a better term, right. I can be as casual or formal as what feels proper to me without worry.
But I do still feel that as a larger whole, when dealing with people who don't understand Paganism, Wicca, nature-based faiths, and every faith or spiritual belief the big religions attack out of fear, we need some sort of support system, no matter how loosely organized. Even if the support system is simply to help explain the many and varying beliefs that currently fall under that "umbrella" of Paganism, how they are all unique, wonderful, and nothing to be feared. It is always easier to overcome prejudice when you have the support of others who understand, can sympathize.
The inspiration for this post came from a class I am currently taking, Introduction to Ethics. The discussion this week is on responsibility and the difference between duty and charity. We read about the famine in Somalia in 2011. Between an unstable government and extreme drought, thousands upon thousands of people died from starvation. The UN said February of last year that the famine is over, but the situation is still very precarious. The question posed to the class was about whose responsibility it was to fix the problem. Do we worry about starving people across the globe when we still have a hunger problem here in the US? I was (and still am) boggled by how many classmates said to just ignore the problem elsewhere until all of our problems are fixed. In an age where we can span the globe with the click of a mouse or tap on a portable device, the community feels much more global. It is harder for me to say "it's not my problem" and go about my business. Granted, I can't make a huge difference on my own, but when people band together as a group, one small drop in the bucket becomes a lake. My tiny donation, when combined with hundreds of other tiny donations can make the difference between a mother having to bury her child or getting the chance to watch that child grow and prosper.
The individual goal for any given circumstance will bring together whichever kind (and size) of community is necessary to overcome difficulties, prejudices, and fears. We can be a community without losing our individual needs.