I attended a sold out concert earlier this week for a famous Mexican singer. Not surprisingly, the lines to enter the concert were long. The organization to enter the venue was lacking and direction was not clear. Usually when this is the case, chaos occurs, so I braced myself for the pushing and shoving that typically follows in these instances.
But, instead, I saw men and women making room for elders to slip by, people encouraging others to cut in front of them so they could be reunited with friends they’d separated from, conversations among strangers who were quickly becoming friends: there was a community forming in the open space.
As Americans, we praise individualism to the point of competitiveness. We are encouraged to ‘pull ourselves up from our bootstraps.’ Though I’m an advocate for maintaining a strong sense of motivation and pushing ourselves to reach our individual potential, there is a slippery slope between accountability/hard work and the erasure of community.
I grew up in an environment where mornings started by sharing a cup of coffee with your neighbor and ended with a communal evening gathering after work outside on the patio, listening to some music and enjoying conversation. Games were played, stories were shared, and dances were exchanged.
But in the majority of the states, people are more drawn to coming home after work and jumping on a technological mechanism, whether it be their computer, their television, a video game device, etc. We interact with others through facebook comments and tweets – in the isolation of our homes…an isolation that can easily lead to depression.
During the concert, I instantly felt a change; I was transported back to my childhood, not only because of the music, but because of the strong sense of community. People were dancing with the new friends they’d just made, bathroom breaks were filled with sharing stories with those standing behind you in line, it was festive. There is no better way to describe Mexican culture than just one big, colorful, festive, eternally optimistic and communal environment.
As the singer wrapped up his last songs, he reminded us that the heart of Mexico is where we carry that culture, not the actual geographical land. The spirit of community, the enthusiasm to share, to hug, dance, and live is carried within us and we spread it to the lands where we travel.
At that moment, I realized just how much my upbringing and what I was taught to value as a child has motivated me in facilitating more connections, creating a stronger sense of community, and making sure that I live the hell out of life.
As he reminded me, allow me to remind you: happiness is born from the village. Let us be inspired to meet our loved ones for coffee, instead of texting them; to visit their homes, instead of leaving a comment on their facebook wall; to giving them a heartfelt hug, instead of ‘liking’ their status.
Let us decrease isolation and increase our participation in creating community.