For four years I lived in a perpetual state of motion. I packed, unpacked, and repacked; I left and returned. I moved mainly between two homes, West-to-East Coast jaunts as school chapters opened and closed. Other relocations propelled me to South America and, most recently, to San Diego. Each time my heart touched a new corner of the compass, it was dipped the color of a precise place and its people. This mosaic of places now tinting my heart reflects the nature of my communities: externally scattered, internally fused as one.
Here’s the thing: while those transitory four years were unique, I am not. Maintaining close ties in multiple places is a common experience, the new normal. We are a generation on the move, allured by new cities and spurred forward by unfelt experiences. Our extreme mobility coincides with an era of extreme technological and spatial connection, making us both more connected and more disconnected than ever.
A century or two ago, no one needed to define their community. It was easily identified as the people who lived and worked a lifetime together—in other words, a village. But today, most of us will do life with countless people in distinct places. Loved ones are scattered in different pockets around the world, and proximity no longer goes hand-in-hand with community. Yet even though the word “village” is more or less extinct, I think the concept—walking through life with the same people—is beautiful.
This is what I’m proposing: let’s take back the village. Let’s orient our lives around the people we love, no matter how scattered and far-flung they may be. It is both possible and rewarding to embrace the dispersed nature of our community. How do we do this? Here are three pieces of advice for cultivating your modern village.
Identify your village. Who are your people? Relational resources are not infinite, and we should choose quality over quantity when investing. (Ever heard the expression, “a mile wide and an inch deep?”) Just like villages were built with defined boundaries, we should wisely define and cultivate the central relationships in our lives.
Embrace the gift of mobility. Our nomadic lifestyle has its perks, including easy and accessible travel. My advice is to make visits with long-distance friends and family a priority. For example, incorporate travel expenses into your budget. When you save for visits, you are literally investing in your village. Relationships flourish with a good, regular dose of in-person time together, so hop in the car and make time together happen.
Reset your mind to prioritize connection. I confess that sometimes setting aside time for a long-distance phone call feels burdensome or inefficient. But after every conversation, I’m reminded of how refreshing it is to love and be loved across time and space. Prioritizing connection also means nurturing the community in your immediate presence. When tasks in front of you feel urgent, sit back and consider what kind of village you want to cultivate. More often than not, setting aside time to care for our community is exactly what we should be doing.
By accepting the dispersed nature of modern community, we allow the richness of long-maintained relationships to seep into our village. After all, a village is the people we build our lives around. And that is something worth holding on to.
Image via The Yard