Many ways to build community

Many ways to build community

Real community in today’s fractured world is a gift.

We are in an era where working from home has remained the norm for many following the COVID-19 pandemic. Students sit in school cafeterias on their cell phones instead of talking and interacting. Amazingly, a current candidate for Alexandria’s City Council even publishes online posts in which he denigrates residents in vulgar terms for holding views on local issues that differ from his.

These are examples of practices and actions that divide, either as unintended byproducts of uncontrollable events, or as deliberate actions. We must do better.

The word community derives from the Latin word “communis,” which means “common, public, shared by all or many,” according to the New World Encyclopedia. To be in community with others means to share in values, share burdens, share in joys.

Being in community with others is a choice that requires work, just like committing to love someone long-term. Being in community with others does not mean viewing everything similarly or holding the same political opinions, but it does mean treating those with whom we differ with respect.

Three items in this week’s Alexandria Times show different facets of community in our city.

“Honoring a father’s legacy” tells of Tony Damiani and the strong sense of community he built at Tony’s Auto Service over more than four decades. Damiani’s clients were so loyal that they’d come from Canada to have their vehicles serviced. His extended family worked at the shop, and Damiani fixed vehicles for people who he knew couldn’t pay in a timely manner.

Sometimes building community simply stems from caring about others while going about your business.

“Interstellar Influencer makes impact on waterfront,” describes the exciting and fun new public art installation recently unveiled in Waterfront Park. These public art installations in one of the city’s treasured focal points along the Potomac River make people think, are great photo ops and are simply fun.

Community is built when we physically bring people together, residents and visitors alike, by sharing an experience.

And the brief story, “Spring2Action early giving begins,” is about one of Alexandria’s finest achievements: the creation of the ACT for Alexandria community foundation. Part of the seed money for ACT for Alexandria was donated by the family of community activist Norma L. Steuerle, who tragically died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

Our city’s nonprofits build community by tending to the needs – physical, emotional and spiritual – of our residents.

While it may take work, creating a sense of belonging and connection in our community is well worth our efforts.