A few Fridays ago, as I was once again sitting around with folks from Campus Edge, someone asked the group: ‘so how was your week?’ It seemed a fairly ideal question for helping each other connect. And yet it appeared to fail, as only one person answered. She’d had a spectacularly lousy week (knee injury + food poisoning), so it was pretty hard to say anything after that. The conversation diverged to food poisoning and other disasters.
A question about plans for the weekend brought up a Latino networking event with enviable food, but again the conversation shifted quickly to other things.
The suggestion to play games started off well. The game choices were pulled out and interest was shown in a number of them. Yet, the discussion never really turned to which one we actually were going to play at that moment.
At first glance, these great questions and the potential activity seemed to have failed in terms of building community. We didn’t have a low-key fun/bonding activity together (e.g., game) and efforts to help us build interest in each other’s lives seemed to flounder.
At the same time, it was a great evening filled with a sense of community. The get-together was a spontaneous dinner + dessert event, and food is always a great way of building community, especially great foods like homemade cheesecake and ice cream. A bonding event had already happened – a soccer game – this had initiated our being together. The option of a board game made the move to the couch more of a decision than simply feeling that we had nothing else to do. And the questions that seemed to flounder actually helped the conversation along, helping people open up and making room for less formulaic conversation.
There thus seems to be no simple formula to experiencing a sense of community. And yet, opening one’s house and showing hospitality to one other tend to play an important role, even if it’s not always the one we expect.