Human beings seem "hard-wired" for community experiences. We all need others to make it in life.
Middle and upper class people tend to become isolated by their economic options, opportunites and obligations. Many times the importance of being in community or solidarity with others isn't clear until some crisis strikes. In tough times the presence or the absence of real community often determines life outcomes. No matter how independent a person feels and acts as a result of wealth and opportunity, there comes a time when the commited presence of others is essential.
Under class people tend to become isoldated by the lack of options, opportunities and power. People who live in poverty alone face tremendous challenges. Risk runs high when you are poor and alone. Again and again I have observed individuals come to us all alone and in deep trouble, sometimes literally at the point of death physically, emotionally and/or spiritually.
I've learned that low-income folks know the importance of togetherness. Pooling limited resources for the sake of the group is a common part of urban life among economically disadvantaged people. Time after time I've been amazed by the open-handed generosity of people who have almost nothing.
This recognition of the essential nature of community is a spiritual gift. I believe this recognition and this unique capacity hold the key to renewing inner city neighborhoods. I also believe that our common need for community may be the ticket to bringing people together from across class and racial lines for the sake of lasting, sustainable, urban revitalization.
No matter what my class, when I feel a need for human connection and when I recognize that very same need in others who appear very different from me, I may have just discovered the basis for a new kind of unity. The end result could be a new kind of city.
Of course, to realize our goal we must reach out a bit, take a chance or two and begin to trust others. This may seem hard and risky. From my point of view the crisis of everyday life leaves us no other viable options.
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