Creating Community on a Porch

A few months ago, my Dad gave me a briefcase full of reading materials he saved over the years.  The materials in the briefcase were from the last three decades.  Every time I open the briefcase, I find new treasures that result in bringing back memories.

Recently I have been reading articles in the Reminisce magazines from 1994-97. The article from July/August 1994, Our Front Porch Made Warm Memories of Summer, brought back memories of sitting on the porch at my grandpa (Buddy). My grandparents’ house was on the “main” street of a small town.  Buddy and I would sit on the porch and wave to any car that drove by…it seemed like we were the town greeters and it was fun.  We would also chat with neighbors and share stories of the day.  I have not been back to my first home since 2004 so I decided to use a map app to see if I could find my first porch.  I found the house and was able to see the porch.
NOTE: It was sad to see the deterioration and lack of landscaping but still brought back good memories.

By using a virtual tour, I could scroll up and down the street, through the neighborhood and the town. I spent a lot of time at the next-door neighbor’s porch and my dad’s sister lived on the same street. Her house had a covered front porch.  Once I reminisced on my own, I had to share this with my mom and her sister.  Below are some of the stories they shared with me:

Buddy and Granny had a closed porch (what I call a sunroom) and a stoop. The closed porch was not inviting to others but on rainy days it was nice to just sit and watch the rain and the cars on the highway go by.  On a snowy winter night, it was beautiful and peaceful to watch the snow fall.  The stoop (open porch) was an inviting area of the home.  If you were sitting there, you could and would expect anyone who passed by to say a few words or sit and visit.
Back when mom and dad bought and remodeled the house there were windows across the front and on the sides of the front porch, with sidelights by the door and venetian blinds on all the windows. The siding was white and there were shrubs beside the steps and a tree in the front yard.  Your grandma took pride in her garden of petunias and 4 o’clocks.
The neighbor’s porch was used by most of the neighborhood. It had a swing and chairs. If necessary, lawn chairs would be brought up to the front yard to accommodate more people. Being a small-town people knew each other and so many times walkers from other neighborhoods would stop by also. Our neighbors would visit and work, shelling peas, sewing quilt blocks or a variety of other chores.  
Even as a kid I would sit with the adults until dark and enjoy the porch and the people. There were other porches in the neighborhood that were used in the evenings but none so much as our neighbor’s porch.  
Your aunt’s porch had a swing too and neighbors sometimes gathered there in the evenings but the thing I really remember about that swing is how pleasant it was to sit out there and just enjoy day. And now while I don’t have a porch, I have the lanai and a glider and as I write this, I’m sitting listening to the rain and enjoying quiet time.  It does not get much better than this.

From Rory Feek blog “The Best Medicine.”

The founder of the Professional Porch Sitters Union (PPSU), Claude Stephens (aka Crow Hollister) believed porch sitting was a way to create community.  “When you’re on your porch you’re a part of your community. When you’re in your house you’re not.”

A porch community promotes face to face interaction and people connecting with one another.  Social connections form and people share recollections from the day, memories of the past, and dreams for the future.  The simple acts of relaxing and reflecting with others strengthens the community. This engagement leads to emotional well-being and happiness and scientific evidence supports the affect between happiness and health. I find that even if I am sitting on my porch alone I feel part of the neighborhood community. We live in at cal-de-sac so the traffic flow is limited but I carry on the tradition started with Buddy…I wave to anyone going by.

If you want to be nostalgic scan through the images and quotes provided by Porch Sitter Union.

Porch pictures & quotes 1
Porch pictures & quotes 2
Porch pictures & quotes 3

Porching isn’t just for small towns. It is needed now more than ever in cities and neighborhoods where we spend so little time thinking about the world outside the four walls we live and work within. Welcoming neighbors to our “porch” builds community. When people are connected within neighborhoods, their neighborhoods are healthier. As we build these connections throughout various neighborhoods, the anticipation is that our city as a whole will become healthier. Creating a sense of knowing, belonging, and connection to where we live and a renewed sense of the important role all people play is critical in making a community healthy and whole. Taft 2018

My friend Jim.

Day One…Year Two!

I started writing my blog in May 2019.  
Today is blog #53…the first blog of my second year!!  
Happy Birthday Bloom to Blossoms!! 

I stated in my first blog that I hope to create a community to share ideas and experiences about ways to live a healthy, evolving, and enriching life. Intellectual stimulation and community building continue to be two of my primary goals.  Reading, thinking, and writing about topics I care about moved me from being a passive consumer to an actively engaged consumer. Over the past year I feel like I progressed from questioning “am I a blogger” to believing “I am a blogger”.  

Sitting on the porch last week, I did some brainstorming with myself about my first year as a blogger and what I wanted to do next. Below are some key ideas and I am excited to share an additional aspect of Blooms to Blossoms that will begin on Friday.

  • Blogging is more time consuming than I had expected BUT it is time well spent.  Consistency in writing and publishing is important.
  • Finding a niche/brand/identity (my purpose) helps focus my writing.
  • Learning from trial and error is part of the process; trial and error is really a fundamental problem-solving process.  Trial and error is insightful learning.
  • Being “out there” (publicly sharing my writing) is a bit daunting and intimidating but fulfilling after publishing each blog.
  • Inspiration for topics come from everywhere.  Being open to influences from my surroundings and my day-to-day life is a creative process of writing.
  • Information overload happens so organization of ideas and materials continues to be important.
  • Reconnection with friends and making new friends is a benefit.  Making connections with others is the community building aspect I plan to continue developing.
  • Engagement in the blogging community provides support and resources.
  • Patience is a virtue 

The past 52 weeks topics of my blogs have been varied. Learning is a lifelong process integrating all aspects of the wellness (physical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, etc).  

Feature images from Blooms to Blossoms Year One

On Friday I will launch Visual Blossoms.  The purpose of Visual Blossoms is to share my thoughts about the purpose of Blooms to Blossoms with readers through sketching.  The intent is not to repeat the blog in graphic form. Visual Blossoms will expand the purpose of Blooms to Blossoms…to tell the story in a distinct way.

Blogging provides me the opportunity to connect my personal and professional life and continue to learn something new every day.  I couldn’t have accomplished getting Blooms to Blossoms online without the encouragement and support of my family and friends.  I appreciate your input and feedback. I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. As I continue to increase my readership I appreciate you sharing my blog with your family, friends, and colleagues.

In addition, when I met Conor (my web guy), and he told me, “I love solving problems and telling authentic stories” I knew he would be a key contributor to my success. Conor listens to my ideas and then creates a custom identity and design for me to accomplish my goals.

The past year I have learned A LOT.  I have filled an intellectual/creative gap missing in my life.  The blog journey is off to an excellent start.  I am looking forward to the upcoming year to see where it takes us. 

The Right Fit: A Community!

I recently bought the book Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonigal.  The premise of the book is about “how exercise helps us find happiness, hope, connection, and courage.” McGonigal (2019) writes in the introduction “Many of the classes I taught turned into communities that not only moved together but also supported and celebrated one another.  In these classes, I learned what collective joy feels like…”(p. 3). One of my prior blogs, Run for My Body, Run for My Soul expresses my belief about the joy of movement; movement enhances my social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual wellbeing.

I am often amazed that some of the greatest people and greatest memories I have connect either directly or indirectly to my active engagement in sports, fitness, and wellness.  While being self-motivated for a lifetime of health and wellness I tend to be a “gym-hopper”; one who moves from gym to gym in search of the “right fit”.  After reading just the introduction of McGonigal’s book the connection to my current gym became clear. I am applying an athletic perspective on the person-environment fit model. 

“Person-environment (PE) fit refers to the degree of match between individuals & some aspect of their work environment. The concept of PE fit is firmly rooted in the tradition of Kurt Lewin’s maxim that B = /(PE);behavior is a function of both person & environment,” Grimsley (n.d.).

My behavior, active engagement, and satisfaction results from the match between my goals and the attributes of a chosen environment. How well are my interests, preferences, knowledge, skills, abilities, personality traits, values, and goals obtainable through membership at a gym?  I joined F45 a few months ago and have found a great gym/workout that meets my needs. The surprise was the sense of community and a connection to wellness aspects beyond just the physical. 

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, and spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life”   Unknown

Personal reasons for going to a gym differ with everyone; it is a bonus when you find the “right fit”. Four elements for a sense of community include membership, influence, reinforcement, and a shared emotional connection (McMillan and Chavis, 1996). For me, the “right fit” found at F45 include:

**A sense of belonging
**A connection and camaraderie with friends
**An atmosphere of healthy competition
**A holistic wellness aspect

“One of the best things I love about our F45 studios are the
friendships that have been made!!
Accountability is key when it comes to fitness and
having someone to sweat it out with you not only helps
push you to reach that fitness goal
but is just so much more fun!!!”  
Coach Jon

The quality of program cannot rise above the caliber of its personnel. The heart as much as the head provides an atmosphere for success.  Attributes such as caring, listening, seeking to understand and affirm participants individuality are part of what makes F45 the right fit for me.  These dual characteristics enable trainers to encourage participants to use their abilities to improve physical fitness and support their overall wellbeing. The F45 trainers ability to inspire others fuels their desire to serve. 

Most gyms believe a sense of community matters.
The key is to find the right fit for you.
Keep in mind that movement can do more
then enhance your physical fitness.
Movement will enhance social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual wellbeing.

A portion of McGonigal’s Final Thoughts (p. 212) supports my idea that there is more to a “workout” location than just a place for physical movement.

In a 2017 essay, Norwegian ethicist Sigmund Loland posed the question: If it becomes possible, should we replace exercise with a pill?  Scientists are already trying to manufacture medicines that mimic the health benefits of exercise. What if they succeed?  “Considering exercise takes time and energy and usually financial resources in addition to implying a risk for injury, the only reason for not replacing exercise with a pill must be related to values in the very activity of exercising in itself,” Loland writes.  “Does exercise have such values, and if so, what are they?”

Based on what I’ve learned from science and stories that fill this book and from my own direct experience, I would say the answer is a resounding yes.  Movement offers us pleasure, identity, belonging, and hope.  It puts us in places that are good for us.

Anyone have any comments to share related to their sense of community and/or enhancement of personal wellbeing?

Buddy Was an Odd Fellow

The IOOF is non-political and non-sectarian organization founded in 1819 in Baltimore, Maryland evolving from organizations in England formed in the 1700s. It is a type of social organization of members, a brotherhood, whose purpose is to develop lifelong friendships and to “improve and elevate the character of mankind.”  The aim of IOOF is to “provide a framework that promotes personal and social development.”

Membership is open to all regardless of sex, race, religion, political affiliation and social status – all bound by the desire to improve ourselves and the calling to live and promote the principles of FriendshipLove, and Truth which transcends labels. We believe that by developing close friendships among each other and by working together in our communities, we can make a difference in the world and among ourselves!  Discussing political, sectarian or any other debate is forbidden in the Lodge, so it breaks down the social walls and labels used to view others and opens hearts and minds to start seeing people as Brothers and Sisters.

January, I shared a story about my grandpa (Buddy), Second Chances.  After learning the truth about a community member, his friendship and love for the individual and the town he lived in embodied the ideals of this organization.  He helped someone in a way that extended beyond himself and was for the betterment of the community.  He displayed the character of friendship, faith, hope, and charity. I suspect that today Buddy’s efforts could categorized as a random act of kindness, an unexpected act of helpfulness; a way to be a better person, help others, and improve community.

The IOOF, to me, is about making the world a better place.  It is about empowering society one person at a time AND that each of us can make a difference. We each need to find our purpose and accept the responsibility that we can contribute to making our life and our community a more joyful, happier, and safer place.  Find a cause that is important to you and let your actions speak louder than your words.  Lend a hand and be the change agent you are meant to be.  

The purposes of the IOOF continues to be a guide to follow.  IOOF “breaks down the social walls and labels used to view others and opens hearts and minds to start seeing people as Brothers and Sisters.”

I have Buddy’s Odd Fellows ring.  The triple link symbol represents Friendship, Love, and Truth.  The symbol of crossing axes represents that truth must persevere. The part of us that does not bear “good fruit” must be cut away.

This ring is a reminder of the good man Buddy was. The good person I can be AND
the good that is in all of us.

Feeling Good About Giving

Over the past few weeks I reviewed information about how charitable behavior is associated to wellness (Marsh & Suttie, 2015, Moffett, 2019, Ramsey, n.d, Robertson, 2015, and Sanders & Tamma, 2015).  The concept of “feeling good about giving” is a frequent topic across the financial spectrum, nonprofit organizations, education literature, and wellness organizations.  The “feel good” aspect of giving is not far-reaching or revolutionary.  The contribution to personal wellness however does extend to psychological, spiritual, and emotional well-being.

Giving enhances sense of well-being in many ways, some of which are:

  • Helping others can lead to a sense of purpose
  • Taking actions in line with your beliefs can lead to inner peace
  • Donating can activate the pleasure centers of the brain
  • Contributing to a cause can promote generosity among others
  • Giving to a worthy cause can improve life satisfaction
  • Aiding a community program can promote social well-being at a local level

A 2009 study by Harvard Business School doctoral candidate Lalin Anik, Professor Michael I. Norton, and coauthors titled “Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior,” explores the ways in which charitable behavior can lead to benefits for the giver.  Their preliminary research suggests that advertising the emotional benefits of prosocial behavior may leave these benefits intact and might even encourage individuals to give more.

A few years ago, my husband and I decided we would like to make a monthly donation to organizations that align with our personal values and areas of interest.  Our primary motivation was not for a tax break or public recognition.  We are fortunate to be able to help proven organizations making an impact. We feel that our giving is an expression of gratitude to those who are working on behalf of the betterment of others.  Some of the organizations we support are:

The organizations above have all shared stories of their work with us. One example of the impact these organizations make on the lives of others is the story of Louis Torres. He started with Instruments of Change in 5th grade; excelled in middle and high school and is now at University of South Florida on a music scholarship. 

In many ways it is better to give than receive.  Giving is good…time, money, possessions…it is empowering to know that you are helping others.  Giving can also be beneficial to your emotional, social, psychological, and yes, financial wellbeing.  We find that giving to our selected nonprofit organizations (partial list above) is rewarding as we support those in need AND we support the work of those running the organizations.

McCoy (n.d.) acknowledges the multiple benefits of giving.

“Whether you’re interested in the tax benefits or have altruistic motives – or a little of both – you can end up getting back a lot more than you give when you donate valuable items, cold hard cash, or even your time to your favorite causes. In fact, the emotional, social, psychological, and financial benefits of charitable giving often outweigh the satisfaction of splurging on yourself or your family.”

Have you experienced the benefits of charitable giving in your own life?

MuSIC – Music Stimulates Improved Community

A few months ago, I wrote a 3-part series on Music Matters. Reading this series shows my belief that music is more than just notes on a page or sounds in the air.  

Music Matters: Master Class
Music Matters: Musicians & Athletes
Music Matters: Music for Me!! Music for You??

I want to expand on the idea that music (making music or listening to music) can be an avenue to crossing boundaries.

Ludden (2015) discusses the idea that music can be considered a universal language. Music certainly isn’t a universal language in the sense that you could use it to express any thought to any person on the planet. But music does have the power to evoke deep primal feelings at the core of the shared human experience. It not only crosses cultures, it also reaches deep into our evolutionary past. And it that sense, music truly is a universal language.

In support of Ludden, Steele (2016) adds:

Music does not suffer the frustrations of catering to the diverse group of people that we are likely to see in a modern community because music is non-verbal and does not differentiate or discriminate between age, culture or ability.  The benefits of community engagement with music are multifaceted and wide ranging. This is because music is a very powerful medium, evidenced by the fact that in some societies there have been attempts to suppress or control its use. Music reflects and creates social conditions and is powerful within a social group because it can facilitate or impede social change. For these reasons community music therapy has recently emerged as a context driven and ethical practiceand it has become necessary to develop theories that explain how we ‘can use music intentionally to enhance connectedness.

My contention is that music is community building. Music experience(s) crosses boundaries of lives, stories, language and is a blending of science and art.

Below I’ve highlighted snip-its from various publications and organizations to provide examples of music at work.


**surrounds our lives
**tells stories
**encourages creativity
**shares insights of others
**enhances the quality of life
**is a second language
**is transformative
**is a fusion of science and art

Links are shared in each example below. I hope you take the time to review the sections that connect most with you.

Musician Leo Samama discusses how music surrounds our lives in his book The Meaning of Music (2015)

For virtually all of our lives, we are surrounded by music. From lullabies to radio to the praises sung in houses of worship, we encounter music at home and in the street, during work and in our leisure time, and not infrequently at birth and death. But what is music, and what does it mean to humans? How do we process it, and how do we create it?

Samama discusses these and many other questions while shaping a vibrant picture of music’s importance in human lives both past and present. What is remarkable is that music is recognized almost universally as a type of language that we can use to wordlessly communicate. We can hardly shut ourselves off from music, and considering its primal role in our lives, it comes as no surprise that few would ever want to. Able to traverse borders and appeal to the most disparate of individuals, music is both a tool and a gift, and as Samama shows, a unifying thread running throughout the cultural history of mankind.

TEDxYouth (2014), are events designed for, and often organized by, young people. They bring ideas worth spreading to all ages.

Jack Lovelace, then a freshman at Flint High School, is passionate about music and storytelling and shares his insight on the idea that “storytelling through music is an indispensable part of life”.

Austin Classical Guitar Society Audience Engagement program encourages creativity through music and storytelling. Artist in Residence, Joseph Palmer travels to local schools and area venues to share a program he developed that engages children and young adults in that arts through integration of music and story telling.  “His emphasis on learning the listening process to influence the emotions, aids students in imagining a story based on the sounds they are hearing” (ACG, 2015).  Music and storytelling has been central to society for generations. 

NPR Milestones of the Millennium (1999) shared insights from others about the impact music has on the stories and lives of others over the years. Lieberman & Corigliano in their article Once Upon a Time: Storytelling.  Musical storytelling has been enjoyed by audiences for most of the millennium, and will surely endure for ages to come. The possibilities for musical storytelling will continue to develop as composers continue to discover new means of musical depiction.

In 2011 Florida Music Education Association (FMEA) hosted a professional development conference in Tampa.  Fung & Lehmberg presentation titled Senior Citizens’ Music Participation and Perception of the Quality of Life provided an overview of their literature review published in 2010.  The literature review focused on the physical, psychological, and social benefits of active music participation for healthy senior citizens. It shows a connection of these benefits to an overall quality of life of older adults. Evidence suggests that active music making has a positive effect on quality of life. Active music participation holds numerous benefits for senior citizens, including, but not limited to (a) an overall sense of physical and mental well-being, including the lessening of stress, pain and medication usage, (b) the slowing of age-related cognitive decline, (c) feelings of pleasure and enjoyment, (d) pride and a sense of accomplishment in learning new skills, (e) creation and maintenance of social connections, (f) a means of creative self-expression, and (g) the construction of identity at a time in life when sense of identity may be in flux. 

Music is a second language for students at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) in Austin, Texas. They describe what it is like to learn guitar. TSBVI instructor Jeremy Coleman shares his teaching philosophy. Coleman developed his approach at TSVBI using Austin Classical Guitar’s, which he has adapted for Braille. Coleman also serves as Austin Classical Guitar’s Inclusion Expert assisting classroom guitar instructors throughout the United States with solutions for students with disabilities.

A short documentary, Music Transforming Lives, by filmmaker Jenna Creech focuses on Austin Classical Guitar’s Youth Orchestra, culminating with the ensemble’s debut at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in October, 2013.

The Musical Mind of Albert Einstein: Great Physicist, Amateur Violinist, and Devotee of Mozart explains the fusion of science communication and classical music. Music and physics as disciplines complement each other. The mixing of disciplines enhances learning.
(NOTE: Be sure to watch the video embedded in the article)

Sports: A Spectator’s and a Fan’s Perspective

A person who watches sports is a “spectator” and/or a “fan”. A spectator is an active observer of the event.  A fan is an admirer or aficionado of the sport and often links identity to a team. Both have emotional significance, value and connectedness derived from group membership.  When watching a sport, a spectator typically refers to “the team” while a fan uses the word “we” when referring to the team.  

I became a spectator and a fan of sports
during high school. 
I was an active observer and
an admirer of these guys!!

My perspective of “watching” sports during high school was narrower than it is today. At the time, I watched as a social event and to support my classmates who were playing.  It enhanced my psychological wellbeing through the social connection with others. Identity formed from talking about the games, sharing experiences and bonding with a group. The videos produced by the Power of Football share the broader perspective of “tradition; brotherhood; moments; community. Football’s positive impact transcends communities across the U.S. — both on and off the field.” 

“There’s something special about high school football.” 
Video (1:52)

There is much written about the value of sports from the players perspective.  The literature lacks content on how spectators and fans perceive sports. Brown (2017) wrote about the influence of identity development through any level of watching sports.  Those watching sport (in person or through the media) consistently mention sense of belonging and feeling part of a group as outcomes of the experience.  Camaraderie, upholding tradition, and community pride are results when friends, neighbors and other members of the community support a sport team.

Almendraia (2017), senior reporter for Huffington Post, interviewed sports psychology professor Daniel Wann of Murray State University. Wann is the author of the book Sport Fans: The Psychology And Social Impact Of Spectators. He explains that there are two routes to feeling good through watching sports.

“One would be following a successful team, and the second would simply be identifying with them. You can get well-being benefits even if your team doesn’t succeed.  It all comes down to how community lifts our spirits and the sense of belonging-ness that increases with a group of like-minded individuals.”

Gau & James (2013) share a value-type framework associated with spectator sports. The goal of the study was to fill the gap in the literature since prior research focused on the participant rather than the spectator. In addition, the literature review found that much of the prior research investigated motivation for watching rather than personal values.

A summary of how the study participants describe
values of spectatorship

EnjoymentExperience success & failure, relaxing, distraction for daily routine, drama of unpredictability
SociabilityInteraction focused on a common goal with friends and strangers
IdentityTeam and player identification, nationalism, parental and peer pride, and hero admiration
StatusSport is important to society so being knowledgeable and able to discuss sports improves self esteem
SpiritualFulfilling, self-satisfying, self-acceptance, vicarious sense of achievement, quest for perfection
MoralSense of fairness and integrity, empathy, discipline, courage
CognitiveStrategies, techniques, tactics, statistics and records, team history
AestheticBeauty and grace of movement, sport is an art form
RitualCeremonial aspects of sport such as tailgating and booster events, observation of athlete rituals

“It is pure escape—it provides me something to just plain enjoy or get mad at, it connects me to my friends, my neighbors, and to random strangers who feel the same pull and passion of the game.”   Becky Simon-Burton

Becoming a spectator and a fan of sports started during high school.  Today I don’t follow high school sports as much as a fan but I do embrace high school sports as a spectator by “keeping up with” local school results.  

Now I’m an avid spectator and fan of college football.  The power of football for me is that my community is across the U.S.  whether I am directly in contact with others or not. The feeling of community exists (a sense of belonging with like-minded people).

I particularly enjoy rival games (Army-Navy, Ohio State-Michigan, Oklahoma-Texas, Alabama-Auburn…to name a few) because of the tradition and camaraderie shared by players on each team and by the spectators/fans in the stands.

The values of spectatorship listed above connect with me. In most every game I watch I can easily point out examples of each value. I’m definitely a college football fan and spend a lot of time watching games…this enthusiasm to “watch” sports began in high school watching MY team play the game.  When I think back on those years…”There is no other place I’d rather be.”

I hope you enjoy the video below.

No Other Place I’d Rather Be  
(Video 2:47)

A Virtual Community Evolves as Members Develop Affective Bonds

Following the path, we can share to create an engaged neighborhood.

Blooms and Blossoms evolved from a wish to connect with others in a format that allows for extended/ongoing communication and drop-in/informal interaction.  Reviewing the prior literature on community building in an online environment guided the blog structure.  Those researching the psychological sense of community agree that McMillan & Chavis (1986) model is the most influential. The model serves as a starting point for creating place-based and virtual neighborhoods. 

“A feeling that members have a belonging, a feeling that members matter to on another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together” (p. 9).

Jones (1997) describes a virtual settlement exists when a posting framework exist and membership is growing. A virtual community evolves as members develop affective bonds.  After reading Jones distinction I knew it was important to me to create a sense of belonging in our online neighborhood. 

Spreading the word to others can be beneficial to our community development.

McMillan and Chavis name four elements important to achieve a sense of community.

  • Membership
  • Influence
  • Integration & Fulfillment of Needs
  • Shared emotional connection

The following example illustrates the dynamics within and between these four elements.

“Someone puts an announcement on the dormitory bulletin board about the formation of an intramural dormitory basketball team. People attend the organizational meeting as strangers out of their individual needs (integration and fulfillment of needs). The team is bound by place of residence (membership boundaries are set)and spends time together in practice (the contact hypothesis). They play a game and win (successful shared event). While playing, members exert energy on behalf of the team (personal investment in the group). As the team continues to win, team members become recognized and congratulated (gaining honor and status for being members). Someone suggests that they all buy matching shirts and shoes (common symbols) and they do so (influence)” (p. 16).

Continued reading on the ideas presented by Jones and McMillan & Chavis led me Blanchard’s (2004) works on community building in a virtual environment.  A couple key articles were:

The Experienced “Sense” of a Virtual Community: Characteristics and Processes

“… there’s more to it than that. Building a virtual meeting place may produce a virtual settlement. But a virtual community is a virtual settlement in which a sense of virtual community coexists with a set of community-like behaviors and processes” (p. 77).

Blogs as Virtual Communities

“Blogs have the potential to evolve into socially beneficial, self-sustaining virtual communities. Future studies of blogs as virtual communities should continue to assess not only members’ sense of community but also how members adapt to and modify the technology to meet their needs in developing a vibrant virtual community” (p. 9). 

I continued my research to further understand how experience in an established community contributes to enhancement of life.  Lambert et al, (2013) article Sense of belonging enhances meaning in life published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin supports the idea of a sense of belonging.  

“Belonging can also contribute to a meaningful life, since being a part of a group connotes being a part of something larger, something that expands beyond the boundaries of our own self, thus promoting a sense of lastingness and continuity” (p. 6).

The literature over the past 30 years support the McMillan and Chavis model for creating a sense of belonging thus supporting Jones distinction of settlement vs community. This review of literature creates the foundation for the Blooms to Blossoms neighborhood.

Recently, Huffington Post contributors, Spero (2015) and Chan (2017) outlined key factors when establishing a community of ‘like-minded thinkers’. I expect membership in our group to grow from those who share similar opinions, ideas, and interests. It is my hope that we also debate, discuss, and challenge each other to promote lifelong learning and personal development.  

If we build it…others will come.

Below is a summary of the relationship of McMillan and Chavis’s, Spero’s, and Chan’s perspective on community building to Blooms to Blossoms.  I cannot prescribe or direct how each of you apply the concepts presented. I can recommend that you think about what you gain from and how you contribute to current affiliations, place-based or virtual.  Then go the next step…what can you do to contribute to Blooms to Blossoms community.

Affiliation with and acceptance by others provides a sense of belonging. A community will result from a group who extends interaction beyond the acquaintance level. We each differ in what “belonging” means.  Our virtual community, as with any community, will have various levels of engagement.  The community will thrive as members gain acceptance and support each other as individuals and as a group.

I’m excited about the future of Blooms to Blossoms and the opportunity we have to work and live together so our community will thrive.

Together Our Settlement Can Become a Community

Jones (1997) was one of the first to distinguish the qualities of an online “gathering”.  He outlined differences between a virtual settlement and a virtual community. A virtual settlement exists when a posting framework and membership exists and is growing. A virtual community evolves as members develop affective bonds. 

Blooms to Blossoms, a virtual meeting place, aligns as a settlement. Our settlement is a community under construction.  

We live life as a consumer, learner, developing human, perceiver, teacher, inhabitant, and participant.  The knowledge, experiences, thoughts, and ideas our group can offer each other serve as the foundation to building our community.  I concluded the About section of my blog stating the goal is to create a community of scholars, practitioners, and pupils. 

We can apply these various lenses of our life in the story Finding the Value in What People Have to Say, from Halcomb’s Epistemological Parables, in Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. The entire story is in Resources section.

While I take this story from a research textbook I find it connects with my intent to create a sense of belonging with the Blooms to Blossoms residents. The story concludes by stating:

“For the person who is willing to ask and listen the world will always be new. The skilled questioner and attentive listener knows how to enter into another’s experience.”

As technology expands how we live and learn research on place-based neighborhoods and communities has addressed the similarities and differences to the development of virtual communities.  Blanchard & Markus (2004) explore characteristics and processes of virtual communities.  The key components of a sense of virtual community are similar to the McMillan and Chavis (1986) model.

  • Feelings of membership
  • Feelings of influence
  • Integration and fulfillment of needs
  • Sharing emotional connection

Can blogs be a virtual community?  It is my contention, and hope, that the answer is yes.  Level of engagement in a blog mirrors level of engagement in place-based neighborhoods.  

  • There are leaders/core group/facilitators who are active.
  • There are participants who engage regularly with the leader group and other participants.
  • There are lurkers who primarily read only.

Inclusion of all 3 groups is important to building a community.  Each is giving and gaining a sense of belonging through their level of engagement.  Many may believe that the lurkers are not contributing to the community.  I am not in this group.  Consider aspects of your life where you are more engaged than others.  While level of engagement is a key factor for personal development, it is not the only factor.  Think about the Halcomb story and Blooms to Blossoms purpose…listening/reading is engagement/Blooms to Blossoms strives to build a community (online and beyond) who integrate wellness, lifelong learning, and personal development.  The key is under the mat and the door is open to all.

Our community will thrive by embracing all members. Examples of how we can reach all 3 groups include:

  • Those who become the core group will broaden the scope of my work.
  • Those who take part and engage regularly will provide another level of perspective and dimension to the content shared.  
  • Those who lurk will enhance personal development.

I hope you can see the path we can share to create an engaged neighborhood.  I welcome and appreciate your contributions to help guide our personal and group learning. Spreading the word to others can be beneficial to our community development.

Next week I will expand on current application and perspectives of the McMillan and Chavis model.  In addition, thoughts about how membership of a community contributes to wellness. 

What can you do?

Share your thoughts on the Halcomb article

Review the 7 Dimensions of Wellness in the Resources section and think about your current affiliation in other online or place-based communities…how does this affiliation contribute or enhance these dimensions.