Consider the most precious part of your life. What brings you more joy than anything else?
It’s unlikely that you're thinking about a material object. And, for most of you, the answer is relationships with people near and dear to you. Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists alike agree that a key—perhaps the key—to happiness is relationships. Strong relationships make life’s difficulties easier to overcome and good times all the better.
Fostering our existing close and deeply meaningful relationships is something all of us can benefit from doing this year. But let's also consider reaching out beyond our family and friends to make new (or newly energized) connections in our neighborhoods or workplaces. This is an exciting pathway to building happier, healthier, more resilient communities.
How do we broaden relationships? Communities grow when individuals regularly do things together. It really is that simple. When we connect regularly, we have an opportunity to build trust.
Journalist and author Sebastian Junger, in his 2016 book Tribe, describes how modern society too often denies us from acting on our human instinct to belong to small groups with a shared purpose. His studies of tribal societies show how humans thrive when we have ample opportunity to depend on—and be depended on by—our fellow community members.
“There are many costs to modern society, starting with its toll on the global ecosystem and working one’s way down to its toll on the human psyche, but the most dangerous loss may be to community. If the human race is under threat in some way that we don’t yet understand, it will probably be at the community level that we either solve the problem or fail to... it’s how we evolved to exist, and it obviously works.”
Community does work. And while Junger’s book highlights how war and other disasters can provide great opportunities for community building, you—New Dreamers—prove that there's no shortage of peaceful pathways for getting together.
Consider, for example, a group of former strangers living in the same Canadian neighborhood who, aided by our SoKind alternative gift registry, came together to sponsor a Syrian refugee family to settle in their country.
Or think about Wen, a former New Dream staffer, who chose not to be complacent in her closed-door California neighborhood and became an active member of her imperfect, but friendly and supportive, urban community.
You inspire us with your stories and acts of above-and-beyond neighborliness, and we hope you feel inspired to put even more of this out into the world this year.
Step up today to take the Community in Action Challenge: Build Connections.
Whether you can commit to completing one or all three of the simple and fun challenges we’ve designed, we encourage you to activate “more of what matters” in your community. You are an important part of the movement to reclaim real connection with others.
And maybe, on the next gray winter day, that neighbor that you've newly introduced yourself to will decide to invite you over for a cup of tea and conversation, rather than heading to the mall for the latest gadget. That’d be a win for you, your neighbor, your community, and the planet we all call home.