Editor's note: What comes to mind when you think of community? This collection of quotes covers many of the themes that might first occur to you — interdependence, inclusivity, a remedy for loneliness — and a few surprises, too, like the way that community depends on both work and fun, or its extension even to those who have died. "A spirited life is continually being expanded to include an ever-widening community," writes Sam Keen in Hymns to an Unknown God. "This requires that we cultivate an elastic heart, an erotic body, a generous mind, and a compassionate imagination to root out whatever keeps us from loving ourselves and the others with whose lives ours are intertwined." May these quotes bring these qualities of love alive in you and those around you.
Aided by Giving Up Expectations
"Hopelessness underscores everything — the deep sadness and fear at the center of life, the hole in the heart of our families, the animal confusion within us. When you do give up hope, a lot can happen. When it's not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it may float forth and open like those fluted Japanese blossoms, flimsy and spastic, bright and warm. This almost always seems to happen in community: with family, related by blood, or chosen; at church, for me; at peace marches."
— Anne Lamott in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
Based in Relationships
"The fact is that relationships are the alchemy of life. They turn the dross of dailiness into gold. They make human community real. They provide what we need and wait in turn for us to give back. They are a sign of the presence of a loving God in life."
— Joan Chittister in The Gift of Years
Blessed by Our Work
"Work is the way we give our blessing back to the community."
— Matthew Fox in Listening to the Land by Derrick Jensen
"We practice mindfulness of cooking, cleaning, sweeping, and washing. When we work this way, we touch the ultimate dimension of reality. But we need training to do this, and it helps very much to have a community in which all the members are sharing the same practice. In fact, it is crucial to be with a Sangha or a church where everyone practices together, or dwells mindfully in the Spirit. We need to create such communities for our own benefit.
— Thich Nhat Hanh in Living Buddha, Living Christ
"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as l live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live."
— George Bernard Shaw in Beyond Absence by Edward Searl, editor
"Whatever community organization, whether it’s a women’s organization, or fighting for racial justice ... you will get satisfaction out of doing something to give back to the community that you never get in any other way."
— Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Capable of Changing the World
"Rooted in the texts and traditions of ancient Judaism, [the Beatitudes] crystallize the very heart of a message God has been trying to convey to us from the beginning of time: a blessed life is a life transformed, and blessed lives gathered in community are capable of transforming the entire world."
— Erik Kolbell in What Jesus Meant
"Average people and the average community can change the world. You can do it just based on common sense, determination, persistence, and patience."
— Lois Gibbs, American activist
"What an extraordinary time to be alive. We’re the first people on our planet to have real choice: We can continue killing each other, wiping out other species, spoiling our nest. Yet on every continent a revolution in human dignity is emerging. It is re-knitting community and our ties to the earth. So we do have a choice. We can choose death; or we can choose life."
— Frances Moore Lappe, author and activist against world hunger
"Despair shows us the limit of our imagination. Imaginations shared create collaboration, collaboration creates community, and community inspires social change."
— Terry Tempest Williams, American writer
A Concentric Circle of Connections
"Let me paraphrase what I heard from this young mother: 'Life is a series of concentric circles of connection. I am connected to myself, then to my family, then to my community, then to my city, my country, the earth, and finally to God. If a step is missing along the way, it makes the rest of the connections more difficult. As passionately as I feel about my family, I need to also have that passion about a larger group of people. As much as I love humankind, I have to love a smaller group first. For me, the connecting circle between my family and God is the neighborhood in which I live.' "
— Nancy Fuchs in Our Share of Night, Our Share of Morning
"Peace is not just the absence of war, it is the active presence of a capacity for love and compassion, and reciprocity. It is an awareness that our lives are not to be lived simply for ourselves through expressing our individuality, be we confirm the purpose of our lives through the work of expressing our shared sense of community in a purposeful and practical way; to sustain our own lives we sustain the lives of others — in family, in a community of neighborhoods called a city, and in a community of nations called the world."
— Dennis Kucinich, Ohio politician
"The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until it knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt."
— Frederick Buechner, American poet, novelist, and theologian
The Doorway to Untapped Resources
"As the world community develops in peace, it will open up great untapped reservoirs in human nature."
— Emily Greene Balch, American economist and writer
Enhanced by Fun
"Fun is always a gift to be shared with others. In fact, fun causes community to explode spontaneously."
— Edward Hays in Pray All Ways
"A spirited life is continually being expanded to include an ever-widening community. This requires that we cultivate an elastic heart, an erotic body, a generous mind, and a compassionate imagination to root out whatever keeps us from loving ourselves and the others with whose lives ours are intertwined."
— Sam Keen in Hymns to an Unknown God
"The word 'emotion' comes from roots meaning to move outward. Through ethics we move outward, beyond selfishness and narcissism to larger ideas of community and polis. Ethics will not leave us alone, and that is precisely the point. Ethics always draws us to others, creating an imaginal space where our mutual frailties can be attended. For Aristotle, who gave us the word 'ethics,' the human is first and foremost a political animal, a child of the earth like the other animals, yes, but possessing a natural endowment for compassion, altruism, and selfless conduct."
— Benjamin Sells in The Soul of the Law
"When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighboring communities."
— Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama
Extended to Those Who Have Died
"I first began to understand how different monasteries were from any places I'd known when the monk who was training me as an oblate said one day, "It's time for your to meet the rest of the community." We walked to the cemetery, and through it, and as we passed each grave, the monk told me stories about the deceased. Having been at the monastery for over sixty years, he'd known nearly everyone buried there."
— Kathleen Norris in The Cloister Walk
"The attention paid to ancestors in folk religion — as in ancestor worship — is a way of providing a community of memory. An awareness of our ancestors gives us a sense of being part of a larger story. It is a way of constituting our individual and collective selfhood."
— Richard J. Mouw in Consulting the Faithful
"When I returned to my parish in Tanzania after a journey to the United States because of my mother's serious sickness and death, the local Christians gave me plenty of pole, the Swahili equivalent of sympathy or condolence. My good friends Robert and Maria, at whose marriage I had officiated, came to express sympathy and show me their new baby, born when I was away.
" 'Padri,' Thomas said, 'in our African tradition, when a person dies, he or she does not just disappear but remains part of our community. We often name the next child after the deceased to preserve this ongoing memory. We want to baptize our newborn girl with the name of Virginia to continue your mother's presence among us.'
"At that moment, Maria put little Virginia into my arms and said, 'Your mother wants to greet you.' Tears came to my eyes, but I was very happy."
— Joseph G. Healey in Once Upon A Time in Africa
Guided by Reliable Leaders
"I cannot imagine how stressful it is to be a leader today and to pretend that you have the answer. A life-affirming leader is one who knows how to rely on and use the intelligence that exists everywhere in the community, the company, the school, or the organization. A leader these days needs to be a host — one who convenes people, who convenes diversity, who convenes all viewpoints in creative processes where our intelligence can come forth."
— Margaret J. Wheatley in The World Cafe by Juanita Brown, David Isaacs, and The World Cafe Community
"Spiritual community gives a sense of meaning and direction, and of life that's bigger than one's own. It's healing without therapy."
— Rabbi Omer-Man in Working on God by Winifred Gallagher
"Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free."
— Starhawk, American author, activist, and ecofeminist
"Community is another source of grace. In community we are meant to grace one another; to be sources of grace; healers by way of grace."
— Matthew Fox in Confessions
"Cultivating a joyful mind benefits all beings. When we experience joy, the positive energy radiates from every pore. It's like being a fairy godmother with a magic wand. Everyone we touch is infected with well-being, and that well-being spreads throughout the community. When there is joy there is no room for harmful thoughts, words, or actions."
— Madeline Ko-I Bastis in Heart of Forgiveness
"Justice is the extension of hospitality to the whole community, so that society can graciously include those who have no one else to look out for them. Perhaps then we might learn what it means to have entertained God without knowing it."
— Mike Riddell in Sacred Journey
"Restorative justice, motivated by a commitment to be unconditionally constructive, is rooted in the union of love for neighbor and a passion for justice in community; its taproot is spirituality: spirituality is at the center. A spirituality of justice has a communal goal, a vision of harmony and health in relationships, a concern for equal opportunity and mutual privilege."
— David W. Augsburger in Hate-Work
"The old emphasis upon superficial differences that separate peoples must give way to education for citizenship in the human community."
— Norman Cousins, political journalist, author, and world peace advocate
"New models of connectedness are emerging all around us. In the information era, access becomes more crucial than possession. Who will have access? What will this do to the economy? The Internet can move ideas faster than books; the hypertext of the World Wide Web is teaching us new, creative ways of shaping reality. Virtual community is replacing proximate, spatial community; subjectivity is no longer bounded by the skin and the brain. All of these transformations will have beneficial but destabilizing effects on our social arrangements and structures. To where shall we look for a principle, a motive of accountability?"
— Madonna Kolbenschlag in Eastward Toward Eve
"A true community does not need a police force. The very presence of a law enforcement system in a community is an indication that something is not working. And the presence of the police is supposed to make it work. Such a force is essentially repressive, which means that certain people in such a dysfunctional community do not know how to fit in. A community is a place where there is consensus, not where there is a crooked-looking onlooker with a gun, creating an atmosphere of unrest. In my village, houses do not have doors that can be locked. They have entrances. The absence of doors is not a sign of technological deprivation but an indication of the state of mind the community is in. The open door symbolizes the open mind and open heart."
— Malidoma Patrice Some in Ritual
"The challenge of social justice is to evoke a sense of community that we need to make our nation a better place, just as we make it a safer place."
— Marian Wright Edelman, children’s rights activist
" 'Independence' … middle-class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth."
— George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright
"If you were alone in the universe with no one to talk to, no one with which to share the beauty of the stars, to laugh with, to touch, what would be your purpose in life? It is other life, it is love, which gives your life meaning. This is harmony. We must discover the joy of each other, the joy of challenge, the joy of growth."
— Mitsugi Saotome, American aikido instructor
Joining an Age-old Conversation
"Because in my own experience, there is wisdom in community. Wisdom in history. Wisdom in joining a three-thousand-year-old conversation."
— Arthur Waskow in Down-to-Earth Judaism
Like a Symphony Orchestra
"A healthy worshipping community is something like a symphony orchestra in that it should allow us both to express the unique aspects of our lives and to be caught up in something greater than ourselves."
— William A. Simpson in From Image To Likeness
The Midwife of New Possibilities
"We can begin by doing small things at the local level, like planting community gardens or looking out for our neighbors. That is how change takes place in living systems, not from above but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously."
— Grace Lee Boggs, social activist and feminist
"The politics we most need right now is the "politics of community." In that birthing process, a prophetic spiritual network — across the lines of race, class, gender, and region — can act as the midwife of new possibilities."
— Jim Wallis in The Soul of Politics
One Pole of a Paradox
"Community and individuality are not an either/or choice, any more than life and death are. Instead, they are the poles of another great paradox. A culture of isolated individualism produces mass conformity because people who think they must bear life all alone are too fearful to take the risks of selfhood. But people who know that they are embedded in an eternal community are both freed and empowered to become who they were born to be."
— Parker J. Palmer in The Active Life
"In African society, a person is first and foremost a member of the community and second an individual. A person's life, therefore, is to be focused on the well-being of the community. This is summed up in one of the most significant African proverbs: 'I am because we are; we are because I am.' "
— Joseph G. Healey in Once Upon a Time in Africa
"To create an atmosphere of silence in the Benedictine community is crucial — an atmosphere within which every monk or nun can do the "work" of solitude, maintaining a mindfulness of divine presence. By cultivating this silence — providing one another with the ability to listen more clearly and attentively — Benedict's followers helped to create, in effect, solitude within communal life."
— Peter-Damian Belisle in The Language of Silence
An Outgrowth of Contemplation
"To be contemplative we must become converted to the consciousness that makes us one with the universe, in tune with the cosmic voice of God. We must become aware of the sacred in every element of life. We must bring beauty to birth in a poor and plastic world. We must restore the human community. We must grow in concert with the God who is within. We must be healers in a harsh society."
— Joan Chittister in Illuminated Life
"There is a brokenness in creation that we all know. The wolf and the lamb do not yet lie down together. We swat the mosquito. We are wary of demons cut off from grace. And yet in a calm, trusting, sabbath mind, there is a sense of the promise that birthed Isaiah's pastoral prophecy of a peaceful creation. We accept the community that we can share now, and yearn for and somehow trust the promise of that full community of creation yet to come."
— Tilden Edwards in Sabbath Time
A Remedy for Loneliness
"The only answer in this life, to the loneliness we are all bound to feel, is community. The living together, working together, sharing together, loving God and loving our brother, and living close to him in community so we can show our love for Him."
— Dorothy Day in Seeds of the Spirit by Richard H. Bell, Barbara L. Battin
Rooted in Belonging
“We can never get a re-creation of community and heal our society without giving our citizens a sense of belonging.”
— Patch Adams, physician and social activist
Secured When Shared with All
"The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life."
— Jane Addams, reformer, social worker, and author
A Sense of Togetherness
"When we gather together to form a Sangha, we practice opening up the confines of our separate self and become a large body of love and understanding. We and our brothers and sisters are one. This idea of salvation is echoed in the Eastern Orthodox church, which has even more of a sense of togetherness — you can only be saved as a community."
— Thich Nhat Hanh in Living Buddha, Living Christ
Shared by All Earth's Beings
“The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.”
— Thomas Berry, Catholic priest and cultural historian
"It becomes increasingly clear that humans have a common origin and a common destiny with every other component of the Earth community. We live on the same planet. We breathe the same air. We drink the same water. We share the same sunlight. We are nourished by the same soil. In all these ways we share in a common spiritual mode of being as well as in a common physical sustenance.
— Thomas Berry in The Community of Religions by Wayne Teasdale, editor, and George Cairns, editor
"The only durable community is the one that embraces the whole planet, wild and tame. We need to find ways of speaking about that great community without drawing lines between nature and society, for such boundaries are . . . illusory."
— Scott Russell Sanders in Writing from the Center
"We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."
— Aldo Leopold in Writing from the Center by Scott Russell Sanders
"Restoring right relationships takes us further than respecting individual rights. It pushes us to begin to see ourselves as part of a community, even as members of an extended but deeply interconnected global family, and ultimately as strands in the web of life that we all share and depend upon. The biblical vision of shalom could be the basis for a new politics of community and social healing that we so need."
— Jim Wallis in The Soul of Politics
"Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
— Eugene V. Debs, American labor and political leader
"Hear me, four quarters of the world — a relative I am! Give me the strength to walk soft earth, a relative to all that is! Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you. With your power only can I face the winds."
— Black Elk, Oglala Lakota leader
Traditionally an Advantage of Women
"One of the advantages women have traditionally had over men is our sense of community. Many sister-hoods in fact serve as strong support systems for helping individual women grow and accomplish their goals. As one of my sister-friends is fond of saying, 'When the sun comes out, everybody can bask in its light — so shine, sister, and you'll shine on me.' "
— Brenda Peterson in Sister Stories
"Women especially are social beings, who are not content with just husband and family, but must have a community, a group, an exchange with others. A child is not enough. A husband and children, no matter how busy one may be kept by them, are not enough. Young and old, even in the busiest years of our lives, we women especially are victims of the long loneliness."
— Dorothy Day in Fifty Days of Solitude by Doris Grumbach
Transformed by Love
"Love in action has the power to transform even the most divided community."
— John Dear in Living Peace
"When I am commanded to love, I am commanded to restore community, to resist injustice, and to meet the needs of my brothers and sisters."
— Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Questions of Jesus by John Dear
"Jesus gathers people into communities in which the mutual recognition as children of God is the foundation for social interaction, and the social feeling is mutual affirmation. In the community, each person does the same thing that Jesus originally did: loving another person on the level beyond any description, beaming full attention (with all one's heart, soul, mind, strength) of positive regard. This can awaken the sense of selfhood in one who has not yet known it, and in this way the community expands."
— Beatrice Bruteau in The Holy Thursday Revolution
A Way to Stay Young at Heart
"How does one keep from 'growing old inside'? Surely only in community. The only way to make friends with time is to stay friends with people. … Taking community seriously not only gives us the companionship we need, it also relieves us of the notion that we are indispensable.
— Robert McAfee Brown, American activist and theologian