It’s one of the first things we learn as kids: how to share.
But this practice usually fades as we become adults. Our houses become filled with our own “stuff.” Garages, attics, basements, and closets transform into cluttered warehouses. When we need something, whether it’s a chainsaw or a roasting rack, our first thought is to go out and buy it. But why get it new when our neighbor down the street has one we can borrow?
Sharing implies a different approach to ownership of the goods, services, skills, and talents that abound in a community. Through sharing systems, we can get the utility out of goods and services without the burden of ownership—and in ways that help build community, clear clutter, and allow for more equitable access to resources.
Former New Dream staffer Wen Lee is on a mission to build community in her California suburb, a place where people tend to keep to themselves. They don't open their doors to strangers, they grow shrubbery around their property for privacy, and they travel everywhere by car.
On her journey to better know her neighbors, Wen is learning that building community can be a struggle. When she received only one response to her efforts to create a neighborhood listserv, she quickly realized that email alone is not enough to create the trust and openness necessary for a connected neighborhood. As she explains, it also involves a “conscious effort to be a friendly, communicative, and generous member of society.”
New Dream's Community in Action Challenge: Share With Others focuses on the “generous” piece of Wen’s equation. As she has learned, sharing begets more sharing: “We offer garden vegetables to a neighbor across the street. The following week, they lend [my husband] tools that he needs for his construction work. I help translate a notice in the mail they can’t read. They keep an eye on our house when we’re out of town. It’s a positive feedback system that everyone benefits from.”
Irresponsible behavior: Unfortunately, not everyone is a good sharer, and some people may try to take advantage of your good will. This tends to be the exception rather than the norm, thank goodness! But, if you’re concerned, start small by offering to lend easily replaceable items rather than offering your favorite Japanese saw right from the get-go.
"Start small by offering to lend easily replaceable items rather than offering your favorite Japanese saw right from the get-go."
Timing: Sometimes, the “give” and the “take” of sharing don’t match up time-wise. Your deluxe stand mixer, for example, may be very much in demand right before the holidays. Rather than view this as a problem, however, think creatively. Could you host a holiday baking party for your neighborhood? You could make a quadruple batch of cookie dough and work with neighbors to roll and cut out shapes together.
Or, if there are items that are always in great demand, consider starting a tool library to house a handful of the most popular items.
Our friends at Shareable believe that sharing can be a powerful worldview and practice:
“Sharing heals the painful disconnect we feel within ourselves, with each other, and the places we love. Sharing opens a channel to our creative potential. Sharing is fun, practical, and perhaps most of all, it’s empowering. It enables us to experience and do things we never thought possible.”
We couldn’t agree more!
Step up today to take the Community in Action Challenge: Share with Others.
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, the next time you’re inspired to take on a big project, you’ll know just who to ask for the right tool or gadget. And who knows? You might even get a partner to tackle the work with you!