I’ve been reflecting on the concept of “Community” lately. I set up a time in my schedule this semester to conduct informational interviews with various people on campus. It seemed to me sometimes that I learned more through those than I did in the classroom. Two recurring themes from their stories were the importance of knowing oneself and knowing what one’s communities are. My aunt once told me that everyone was born with certain skills in a certain family because that family needed those skills. And like most Africans (and many other groups, really), the concept of Family goes beyond the nuclear family. One’s family is more like one’s community.
Like many first-generation students from immigrant background, I didn’t always have a good perception of my relation to my community. Like many, I started out as a pre-med student, because i thought that’s what my family expected me to do. For me, my community were sometimes made up of people I didn’t necessarily know (you don’t me? I’m your aunt…your dad’s cousin’s niece sister-in-law, twice removed!…uh…ok!). My view of my community was a group of people who put pressure on me, who asked things of me and were not there for me during my failures but there to profit from my successes.
Interviewing people who were older than me helped me view Community in a different manner. I realized that I was part of more than one community: from the micro-level community that is my immediate family to the most macro-level community that is the Human Community. I started asking myself what those different communities needed and what I could provide for them.
One of the people I interviewed, a native from Nigeria, told me about the countless African immigrant families she was able to advocate for, because she was a lawyer. It made me reflect on my personal skills and in what ways they could be used to assist members of my communities. It raises the question, can the idea of Community change the way we view ourselves, our work and our achievements? Can the awareness of the needs of the communities within which we were placed (born/included/established) (re-) invigorates/transform/energize our endeavors?
If the saying is true that it takes a village to raise a child, how many children does it take to raise (energize/strenghten/uplift) a village?