FT – You may not always get to choose what community you’re a part of, but you can choose what role you’ll play in it. #sachat
People define community in different ways. People join communities for different reasons. Sometimes communities develop spontaneously. No matter how one defines community or why people join or how the community came to be, the basic definition of a community remains the same: a group of individuals that are joined or bonded by some type of commonality.
It is highly unlikely that less than three weeks ago, the citizens of Ferguson, MO, a community in-and-of itself, imagined they would become members of another community, but the shooting death of Michael Brown, a black man, by police officer Darren Wilson, a white man, resulted in Ferguson becoming the latest focal point in America’s ongoing struggle with race and racial relations. Ferguson joined Birmingham, Harlem, Watts, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and others where citizens have taken to the streets to protest what is perceived as another injustice committed against the African-American community.
The reactions and behaviors exhibited by the newest members of this community have proven quite diverse. While some have called for peaceful gatherings, others have chosen violence and destruction. While some have urged patience while the investigation into the shooting runs its course, others have called for the immediate arrest, prosecution, and conviction of Officer Wilson. While some have chosen to throw Molotov cocktails among other things at law enforcement, others have chosen to form human walls to protect the officers. While some have used this tragic incident to advocate an honest and open discussion on race relations in America, others have used it as an opportunity to stoke the flames of racial tension and distrust.
We are all members of some type of community and, in reality we are probably members of multiple communities. I am a member of the Student Affairs community, Christian community, Fighting Illini community, Facebook community, Twitter community, heterosexual community, bi-racial community, football officials community just to name a few. Some communities are more important to me than others, so I am more active in those communities.
This holds true for us all. We are all a part of one or more community and we are probably part of a community that significantly defines who we are and what we believe. In most cases we are voluntary members of those communities. But on occasion we find ourselves a part of a community we neither chose nor care to be a part of. It is on those occasions that we have the opportunity to do the most good and have the most influence.
What role will you play when your find yourself a part of a community you did not choose to join? Will you be a calming voice that brings people together or the shrill cry that tears people apart? Will you allow yourself to be guided by positive energy, looking for ways to grow and change things for the better, or will you choose instead a negative outlook that maintains the status quo that does harm and prevents your fellow community members from evolving and improving? Will you be proactive or reactive? A leader or a follower? A hero or a villain? Are you going to be the person that people look up to and emulate, or will you be the person that others will turn away from and avoid?
Nobody can dictate to you what role you should play as a member of a community you did not choose to join. That decision rests squarely on your shoulders. But it is a decision you will have to make and more importantly, it is a decision you will have to live with.
Whatever you choose, remember that this decision affects not only you: it has the potential to impact others, perhaps a handful, perhaps hundreds. Be deliberate in your decision, and if you choose to step forward and be more than just another voice within the crowd, prepare yourself for all that may occur. Most importantly, make sure that you are fully committed to the choice you have made, even if there are repercussions.
Remember, you may not always get to choose what community you’re a part of, but you can choose what role you’ll play in it. Not only is that an awesome responsibility, but it can be an amazing privilege. Cherish it, and use it to help shape the world you leave for the next generation.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Krista Kohlmann on Community Service