Dennis Berens: I was honored to have served as the Director of the Nebraska State Office of Rural Health from 1990 until mid-2012. Since then, I have continued my work as a rural consultant trying to offer ideas, models and partnerships to address the ever changing dynamics that put pressure on all of our state’s communities. The concept of community is often hard to grasp because there are so many definitions/usages of the word. My whole adult life has been spent in Nebraska working with some school communities, some governmental communities and health care communities and grappling with this word and its implications. I hope my ideas are helpful to you.
Community is one of those words in our language that is used so often and in so many ways it may not have meaning for us today. So many definitions, so much myth, so much emotion. What’s in it for me and you? With four generations alive and operating in our country today, I think this word and its definition could serve as the missing link in our words and actions.
Think about your present definition of community and how many “communities” you live in. I grew up on a farm that was a community. I had ties to a very small town, and there were a number of communities there for me. In the city where I live today, some of my neighbors help me create community. Where else do we find community? Church? State? School? Work?
Those of you who know me have heard me say that community exists among people who are willing to risk for each other. On a ten point scale, you and I must be willing to risk at least at level one for us to be in community.
For me this definition hits one of the crucial elements in humankind: TRUST. If we will not risk for someone, can we be in a trust relationship? In today’s world of instantaneous communication, whom do you trust? And if you cannot trust, can you do business? Can you create meaningful organizations and policies without trust? Can you have real and meaningful relationships? Can you really have working communities?
Think about this word and your definition of it, and then have a “community” discussion about what it means and how we can use it to create a better world.
by: Dennis Berens