Editor's note: This is the first of a 3-part series on Community: what it is, what it means and what it can be.
Vigo County isn’t just merely a county, just as Terre Haute is more than a municipality. We're a locality of some 108,000 people, all working, learning, playing, creating and recreating in the same general point on the globe. By strict definition, that comprises a community - a group of people living in the same place.
But Community — real community — involves more than living together in close proximity. The word itself (community) connotes commonality - shared interests or common characteristics. While a city’s residents may share a common hometown, that fact alone doesn’t necessarily make it a community.
So beyond simply living within the same civic boundaries or general region, what do we have in common with the people we rub shoulders with while going about our daily business? Go ahead: look around. Analyze the people around you, “Hauteans” at the gas station and the grocery store. Look them in the eye. They’re your neighbors.
Together, we share something more than the same streets & neighborhoods, the same parks and restaurants and gyms and schools and ballparks and museums. It starts with our shared humanity.
All 108,000 of us — each a distinct, unique individual with our own distinct, unique personalities, ideas, hopes & dreams — we all want a good life, a full life, a life rich with purpose and meaning and satisfaction in time well spent in a good place for whatever time we’re allotted breath.
We have different ideas for what that means. We all start in different places, carry different life experiences. We mingle in different social circles and make different decisions and life choices. We may question theirs; they may question ours. We take different paths at different speeds with different ideas on how to get to where we want to get in life. But at heart, we essentially all want the same thing: a good life.
It doesn’t matter if we drive a Beemer or a beater, wear tattoo sleeves or a suit & tie, a hard hat or a tiara - that lifelong endeavor for ‘more’ starts with where we live; the rest of it - the bigger part - is what we actually do with our lives.
While we Hauteans have our differences, we all share humanity - all 108,000 of us. And we share a hometown. Despite our differences, we have much in common.
To become a community - a true community - we must realize that we don’t simply live in a community; we are the community. And this place we live in is ours. Not yours. Not theirs. Not our elected officials’ and representatives’. Ours.
So whether you take great pride in your hometown, disparage it or hang your head, know that it is yours, and you share the responsibility of stewardship of our community. You owe it to yourself and to your loved ones to invest in your community. Do what you can to make it a better place to live.
Because the secret to achieving that sometimes elusive “good life” we’re all pursuing is this: we can’t just devote our lives to ourselves. It may be counterintuitive, but real satisfaction in life goes beyond ourselves and our immediate self-interest. It involves investing ourselves in the people within our realm of influence. It involves investing our time & resources into our community.
Because we don’t just share our community. We are our community. And building it, builds our "good life" starts where we live.
Mark Gibson is Executive Director of The Haute Initiative, a grass-roots non-profit dedicated to promoting & celebrating the greater Terre Haute/Vigo County community.