By Contributor Eve Curley (@eveyandidotcom)

I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘community’ lately.  What makes a tribe?  Who makes up our village?

Have you got a posse (or a squad, as Tay-Tay would say)? Or do you have a couple of ‘squads’ made up of different personalities from different parts of your life? For a word that is thrown around so freely, and in the current worldwide political situation where I feel communities are slightly confused and/or frustrated, I feel this piece is timely. 

I’m calling the world-wide political landscape at the moment a ‘situation’.  It is more than that, but I’m not interested in making this piece into a debate about politics.  I think we can all agree there is enough of that at the moment.

I think community support comes in so many forms and we can’t ignore the “digital community” creeping into our lives 24/7!  It is no longer just a community of parents working behind the scenes at a sporting club or your school ‘group’ hanging out after school at the mall or the library.

To be honest ‘behind the scenes’ doesn’t really exist anymore and, as we struggle to align with one ‘community’, we are bombarded from all angles with so much damn opinion and everyone’s seemingly perfect Instagram square in the ever-growing sometimes mean social media world.  While ‘behind the scenes’ support seems to be now so public I am confident in saying that real community values still exist, they are just sometimes clouded by too many voices in the media. 

Sometimes we should simply just TURN OFF and just LIVE.

Recently I visited my Brother in a place called Leeton.  Leeton is a quaint country town in country New South Wales Riverina region.  A place he has adopted as his home.  Unfortunately the name may ring a bell to you for a devastating reason.  This is where murdered bride-to-be and school teacher Stephanie Scott was from.  It was her community, her safe place. 

Eve's daughter Isla was excited to arrive in Leeton

Eve's daughter Isla was excited to arrive in Leeton

The nation’s media swamped on this little town covering the devastating story as it unfolded, reporting live from the shrine of remembrance drenched in yellow ribbons in Stephanie’s memory. We saw a community grieving hard but also a very strong community.

After working in media and communications for a number of years I also saw very closely the power of a community when cricketer Phillip Hughes tragically passed away.  This was a sporting community uniting together.  I haven’t played sport since I was at school, however working in sport I can see how 'sport' and 'community' gets thrown in the same sentence so often and the reason why it can be so hard for sports-people to retire from their community where they share such a collective connectedness.

Both stories mentioned were no doubt tragic, but interestingly both saw similar social media outcomes. The 'put out your bat' and 'put your dress out' tributes both saw the online community connect in really beautiful ways in the face of tragedy.  An example of where the sometimes toxic world of social media can be heart-warming and meaningful.

Eve's friend displays her dress in tribute, for the Put Your Dress Out movement.

Eve's friend displays her dress in tribute, for the Put Your Dress Out movement.

My Brother moved to Leeton with some mates quite a few years back now.  Just a group of mates interested in what the local football club had to offer.  They got more than that.  They got a strong community.  A community that they have ultimately fallen for.  Friends that have become family that they have chosen.  He still loves his home-town and I know there are many special 'Hobartians' that make up his community....but I’ll be honest I have been scratching my head for years as to why he chose to live in this small country town. This was before I visited.

It’s not like little old Hobart where we grew up is any New York City, but I always wondered. I actually think what sets this place a part (and probably similar in other country towns) is their lack of consumerism, their peace with their “identity” and their community “values”.  I only spent a few nights in Leeton and it was strong….even without big city lights. Here are a few things I observed;

  • A 1st Birthday Party full of love and laughter. A home, not a house.

  • A town that pretty much shut down shops at 1pm on a Saturday.  I was horrified I couldn’t get my latte, but hey these café owners don’t want to work all weekend. Priorities. Props to them.

  • A community that were kind to each other.  I walked into the local bakery and it was full of families with their children dresses in their local sports uniforms just smiling.

  • Some amazing art deco architecture.  I think sometimes we are so consumed in our phones or getting to the next meeting we never look around our neighbourhoods and see the history it has.  This all creates a sense of community. It’s not always people.  It is place too.

Isla running freely at one of the Leeton community parks

Isla running freely at one of the Leeton community parks

Values. Identity. Place. These are three words that I think form our overall communities.  I’m not saying that the town of Leeton is perfect, but there is no doubt that on my trip I felt a sense of calm and a strong sense of community.

I think in a world of 'squads' and 'school communities', 'neighbourhoods' and 'Insta-communities' it is clear that your overall community can be made up of many.  It does take a village. But for the village to work we need to sit down, put away the credit cards and the lives that aren’t ‘real–life’ for a bit and think about what and who should be a part of our actual real life community.

I think what I’m saying is hey, let’s get back to the simple life (please note, the Paris Hilton/ Nicole Richie reality series of the same name is NOT what I’m implying….it is pretty funny though) and think about our communities and who we really want in them. We should be supporting not judging, and collaborating and celebrating, not competing! Why? Because the right communities can go a long way I think in making us not only happier... but healthier people.

We should have an open mind when we look to find our tribes.  I think we should choose wisely and find them in all areas of life because they will not only be huge in shaping us as humans but no doubt our children.  If you make a mistake and choose someone that you later realise has crap morals, that’s okay too.  Get rid of them.  You have your “community” behind you.  The one you CHOSE, because you get to do that right? That old saying “you can choose your friends but not your family” is true. This is why a wider community support group is so important.

If your family (or a family member) happen to have questionable morals…it’s okay we all have at least one in our family LOL….or you don’t have strong family support (we don’t all have that) we can still have a strong and connected community. That’s all the way back to your fellow angel in the kindergarten nativity play in 1988 who you stood on stage with and who is still your bestie (and part of your tribe) in 2016.

One of my favourite quotes is from the genius that is Shakespeare: “The world’s a stage and we are all merely players”.  Get a good squad of players people!