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Pride of ownership: what community means

May 17th, 2004 · No Comments

I spent Sunday morning “working on the streets” as a neighbor described it, pushing a broom against stubborn wedges of curbside mud, sweeping our neighborhood for part of our annual spring cleaning. Each year we sign up for shifts for a day – voluntarily- and take our turns weeding, mulching and tidying this community that 60+ families call home. When I think about our “spruce-up” or the other events where we cooperate as neighbors, the word that comes to mind is “pride of ownership”.

As I looked around at my fellow workers with weeds and wheelbarrows, I saw many new faces, families who had just moved into our neighborhood, names I didn’t yet know. There were some like us who have been here the whole 3 years, familiar friends, and many first-timers. A mix of newbies and oldies. It’s those who care about our community, who want to make things happen, who want to get to know each other and work side by side. Those who are willing to sweat and get dirty, pay the price for what they want to experience here. Comraderie comes from shoveling aromatic mulch, riding together in a pick-up truck and kneeling in the dirt to plant and pull. We tidied the entrances, cleaned the streets, mulched the perimeters, freshened up the playground and had a picnic to celebrate.

Ted and I have had an ongoing conversation this week about community and what it means. Yes, I am the reason he cares about Movable Type software on a personal level. The announced changes may mean a change for this blog: it may be time to pack up the boxes and move somewhere new.

Between what I’ve read about the Internet Law Program, and what I understand about MT, I’ve found myself contemplating quite a few questions this week. It’s been fun (and intense at times!) to talk about them with Ted. What does it mean for a community to own something? To feel that something is theirs? When and how is it best for a corporation or a copyright to have legal rights? What is the impact on humanity and creativity? How can a community acquire that crucial “pride of ownership”? When people have passion and desire, when they have power, when they can create and change and choose, it’s amazing what can happen. It is vibrant and alive. It is fun. It is life.

I’ve been a part of various communities in my life. We’ve participated in different spiritual communities. I’ve belonged to exclusive writing groups and inclusive meetings for mothers. I’m not a part of the open source community although my husband is…

Perhaps the community I understand the most at the moment is the one where we live. The place where we run and play, where we weed and sweep. Where we share common space. Where we belong.

That morning a newer neighbor asked my advice about plants in the median that needed pruning. I wasn’t familiar with this particular lime green one and although I agreed that it seemed unhappy, I was a bit hesitant and suggested consulting someone else certain to be an expert. Another new neighbor said, “There’s no one giving commands here. There’s consensus.” And with that, the decision was made and the plant’s stale branches lopped.

On a morning like yesterday, it’s easy to see and say what community can do. What it means to feel that this belongs to us. Now when I drive through our neighborhood, I’ll see the red and purple rhododendrons blooming in their blankets of mulch. I’ll see the medians tidied and dark with new dirt, the plants pruned and ordered, prepared for another summer of flowers. I’ll see the signs, the signs at the entrance, cleaned and stained.

I’ll see the signs that say this place is ours. All of ours. This is us.

Postscript Monday morning….
Note: While the opinions expressed here are my entirely my own, not those of my lover, Ted has written two more posts Code. community and money, and Why is it always about us vs them? on community issues….which so far this morning has been retitled It’s the community, stupid!” by one blogger, and received a thoughtful response from Dave Winer in As good a time as any.

Tags: culture