Community. The word derives from the Latin word “communitas,” where “com” means “with or together” while “munis” signifies “to fortify or strengthen.” As a part of a community, we are united and strengthened together by a common goal, whether it is a belief, a location or a hobby.
Communities are an essential facet of well-being: contributing to our sense of trust and belonging to others, self-esteem and inner acceptance and fulfillment, all fundamental aspects of one’s hierarchy of needs. Joining many of these personal networks gives us a broader view of the world, letting us observe ways of life that are perhaps different from our own. Being involved in various communities makes and shapes our character and personality.
Throughout my high school years, I have been lucky to be a part of multiple special communities outside of school, whether it is the folks at the Daily Journal, my Bay Area-wide robotics team or a group passionate about feeding people and reducing the amount of wasted food. Each one has taught me a different lesson on the importance of community in a fragmented society.
1). Community is understanding other perspectives.
As you may well know, the Daily Journal is a place that welcomes the diverse opinion of its readers, something that is all too unfamiliar in this day and age. Whether it's in the columns or the letters to the editor, the platform the Daily Journal provides to express one’s two cents is valuable in facilitating conversation and comprehension within our community. Through the internship experience, I realized the importance of heterogeneity in opinion and respectful dissent when it comes to current issues and events. I am also grateful to the Daily Journal team for including us students in the ongoing discussion through the newspaper’s columns, letting our voices and stories be heard both in the Peninsula and across the United States. And thank you to the readers who read and leave encouraging comments, which are always empowering.
2). Community is a place to learn and grow with others.
American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck’s four stages of community states that the creation of a community generally involves these phases: 1). pseudocommunity: withholding true, authentic feelings, being nice and friendly to others to avoid conflict; 2). chaos: emergence of individual differences leading to habitual confrontation and struggle; 3). emptiness: “emptying oneself,” acknowledging and opening up of differences, brokenness and failures; 4). true community: continued deep acceptance, healing and respect for each other.
Throughout the four years I have been on my robotics team, I feel as though I have grown up and gone through these four phases with the team, joining as a fledgling freshman and now close to graduating as a veteran senior. Coming from a range of high schools around the San Francisco Bay Area, the team is a diverse group of girls, all united in a love for STEM and building robots. But we have gone through our fair share of arguments and struggles as a young team from what to name our table saw (we like to give our tools an identity) to more serious matters regarding defining team culture and values. During our end-of-season retrospectives, we open up about our low points and qualms, resolving leftover conflicts of the year. Ultimately, this establishes the true community, where we reach a point of listening to each other, understanding everyone’s needs and dealing with conflict in a healthy way.
3). Community is built on compassion.
For the past six months, I have been a part of MEANS Database, a nonprofit that connects restaurants, bakeries and other food distributors that have leftover food with emergency food providers (ex: homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food banks) that can use that food to serve. Through their platform, MEANS establishes liaisons in cities across 49 states. Of course, even with the help MEANS provides, throwing away food is still easier than donating, as donating involves posting an item to the platform and coordination with nonprofits that will take the food. MEANS relies on the compassion and kindness of donors to build the network it has today. Seeing the donors’ compassionate actions every day after their long day of tiring work was a touching, heartwarming experience to be a part of.
Although I will be leaving the Bay Area soon and along with that the communities I have been a part of here, I believe I will carry the lessons I have learned through my experiences. Wherever life takes me, I hope to continue to join and contribute to the communities there. Because I know it will bring me happiness and fulfillment.
Erika Pilpre is a senior at Aragon High School in San Mateo. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at email@example.com.