Community is something that most everyone can agree holds a fair amount of significance. As a society, we’ve created areas (YMCA, Community Centers, etc) in hopes to foster community, but how exactly is “community” defined, and what importance does it really hold for those of us who are not typically involved in community activities?
We are all a part of several communities. People we frequently engage with at work, our friends we hang out with after our daily shift and the groups we associate with for leisure activities or job related, are all communities we engage in regularly.
In its simplest form, community is a group of individuals united behind a common interest. Even your neighbors, whom you may share nothing in common, are also a part of your community, and in ways greater than just a close physical presence. Together, you share an interest in a safe neighborhood, roads and sidewalks that are acceptable for evening strolls, and schools that prove to be a solid stepping stone for your child’s future.
In the heart of Silicon Valley, we, more so than most other areas of the US, are battling the growing disconnect of community and an increasing sense of isolation. Here, at the birthplace of so many great technological advances, we have become subject to both the positive and negative outcomes of our progress. In no way does this mean that our work is causing more harm than good. Rather, like the positive, we need to prepare to encounter the negative effects technology is having on our lives.
“A machine has value only as it produces more than it consumes – so check your value to the community.” –Martin Fischer
Community can be thought of quite similar to a pre-established Employee Value Proposition (EVP). An EVP is a term used to describe the benefits employees receive for professional performance. If your performance at work is sub-par and low, chances are you won’t be receiving any benefits, and more than likely sent home with letter of termination. Like your company, the less you put into your community, the lower your valuation to the community becomes, and fewer are the rewards you receive. Thankfully your community is probably more forgiving than your employer. However, unlike your employer, the value you reap from sowing your community is not always as blatant as receiving a paycheck. At the same time, it can hold a similar value.
Getting involved in the community usually means a time commitment and essentially a giving of something of value to you. Giving of time can sound stressful and giving of money can be burdensome.
In June 2007, the University of Oregon released the surprising finding of a research study about the effects of giving. While monitoring brain activities, researchers gave numerous subjects $100 and then showed the money being transferred from the subject’s account to a food bank. The result was that the pleasure areas of the brain were triggered; the same ones that glow while eating sweets, connecting socially, and flare during sex. When the subjects had the option to choose how to donate the money, the effects on the brain were even stronger. Maybe Jesus had another reason for telling his followers to give all their possessions away and follow Him. This doesn’t exactly mean a giving orgasm can be achieved; rather, the effects of giving are “pleasurable”.
Apart from the sensual benefit that community can bring, there are a number of other surprising benefits that community giving can bring to your life (statistics have been taken from a 2004 ICM conducted survey and commissioned by CSV and a United Healthcare Survey).
- 47% of volunteers have reported a positive impact to their physical health and fitness
- 25% of people volunteering 5 times or more a year have reported weight lose as a result
- 9% of men and 8% of women have noted improvement in sex life due to volunteering
- 71% of volunteers offering their professional skills have reported decreased depression
- 43% of employers believe employees who volunteer are more likely to be promoted and increased pay
- 73% of volunteers have noted reduced levels of stress
Community is what you make it. It’s much like a business. You work at it, you grow it, and it gives back. Feel like growing your community?