You know those “everyone in each other’s business” communities in movies like Groundhog Day, The Majestic, and pretty much every musical? It seems like a throwback notion – bumping into people across town and knowing not only their names, but their drama, mess, dreams, joys, fears, and follies.
The thing is, even in today’s metropolitan culture, throwback scenes of community are still possible if you put in a tiny bit of effort.
- Ask the owner of a favorite local spot what his/her dreams are for the business, and what challenges are most daunting
- Ask your kid’s soccer coach what impact sports had on his/her life
- Find the hurting people in town and spend a little time helping, alongside the other humans in your community
Let’s take a quick look at how “giving local” can add a bunch of family you never knew you had. (Buying and Banking local are covered elsewhere.)
Does Your Community Matter to You?
I’ve been casually dating my community for decades.
I believed my community mattered, but I didn’t really know I wasn’t participating. I had no commitment to it, other than showing up at a few spots a week and doing my own thing. And then I started working at this company, Towny, which helps citizens of a community connect with their locally-owned businesses, banks, and charities. And change everything did.
How do you feel when you find out that you haven’t been making good on something you believe? I don’t know about you, but I usually feel somewhat ashamed, slightly hypocritical, and I’m energized to change.
In the last six months, I’ve become personal friends with over 20 local business owners, met charities I didn’t know existed, found out who’s helping people launch their ideas, and learned shocking statistics of basic human needs in my own community.
Your Community Has Needs
Check out this awesome video published at www.councilofnonprofits.org. I was surprised at the examples they gave of how nonprofits have elevated standard of living in communities. Where would we be without them? (And many of us probably thought they were extra!)
Just last night, I went to the local blues club for an event run by a local charity, which called to the stage any other musical non-profits in the room. There were six! They worked on everything from helping high school students graduate by getting them mentors in music, to helping rehabilitate the city’s musical scene’s dark side of opiates.
Local charities solve real problems, and there are way more than you think. They just don’t spend on marketing budgets, seeing as they don’t have them.
Right now, Towny is in five communities. So let’s just look at hunger in those five, by way of example:
- In Waco, Texas, 21% of the population is food insecure
- In Lubbock, Texas, 18% of the population is food insecure
- In Acadiana (Lafayette, Louisiana region), 1 in 5 children are food insecure
- In Evansville, Indiana, statistics are hard to find but statewide statistics show 1 in 6 are food insecure
- In Northwest Arkansas, 1 in 4 people are food insecure
That means that if you saw every person in your city in a given day, roughly one out of every five is unsure about where their next meal is coming from (if at all).
And that’s just hunger. Pain is all around us. It’s easy to avoid, but your community is hurting as much as it’s thriving.
Getting Involved in Community is Life-giving
Perhaps for you, “home” has only made you think of family and a house, never your community. My challenge if you choose to accept it, is to think more broadly. Be part of something! There are probably 10 to 50 local charities and getting involved is straightforward.
1. Volunteer Time and Talents – Meet the founder of a charity that’s in your area of interest and volunteer time. Bring your children! Bring your friends!
2. Donate to Your Community – The local charities usually don’t have huge overheads, administrative costs, and so on. They need help keeping the lights on!
You’ll build relationships with founders, meet your community members, and maybe you’ll feel like your family grew a little.
…And Download Towny
Did you know there’s a completely free app that connects you to locally-owned businesses across town? These businesses don’t have the marketing budgets to compete with the big guys, but their offerings tend to be better and, often, their prices are the same or lower than you’d guess.
On the Towny app, many offer great deals to entice you into their doors to shake hands. You’re more than a $ sign to locally-owned businesses if you let yourself be treated that way. I promise that being part of a community is totally worth it! So get to know your town and use Towny whenever you can to buy, bank, and give local!