Strength in CommUnity-Jamie Gaines
Eight years ago, I found myself finishing a college degree for a career that I realized was not inline with my values. The long hours would keep me from my family, there was little room for creativity, and I didn’t see the work creating positive change in the world. Don’t get me wrong, there was certainly a reason to continue to pursue that career. I was on the path for a significant raise over the next six years which would nearly double my income, who could resist that!?
It turns out that I could. With some self reflection, and intentionality I realized that this career was not the path to happiness. I realized I no longer wanted to be a part of the system that keeps so many people in perpetual debt, working at jobs they hate to buy things they don’t need. I wanted to live more lightly on the Earth, to live sustainably, to be…self-sufficient! I began voraciously reading everything I could about creating the life I wished to live. I pored over books with titles like “The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading: An Encyclopedia of Independent Living,” and “The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it.” I even read a whole series on self-sufficiency that covered everything from cleaning to home brewing (you know, the essentials). (All of these are great books by the way!)
Of course, I quickly became overwhelmed by the amount of material. The skills and knowledge (not to mention the resources) one needs to truly live self-sufficiently are truly staggering. At this point, I had two options: give up and resign myself to being stuck in a system that is unhealthy for human beings, or figure out a way to make it happen. This is when I began learning about community.
It turned out that there were already thousands of people living intentional lives, and supporting each other in a variety of ways. I finally felt like I wasn’t so alone, that there was still hope to live a life of principle and value. Essentially, I realized that I didn’t have to learn everything, there were others that already possessed the skills and knowledge I was seeking to acquire. And I already possessed different skills and knowledge that others might be lacking. This led me to the idea of “group-sufficiency.”
Fortunately, we live in a community where the skills are well rounded. Having computer trouble? There’s a community member that can help. Need help removing (literally) tons of plaster in a green remodel? There’s a community member that can help (Thanks, Luke!). Need help diagnosing a problem with your tomatoes? There’s a community member that can help. The list goes on and on. What skills do you have to share with the community? What is a skill that you’re lacking but want to acquire? What do you need help with? These are all questions that we can ask ourselves and reach out to others in our community to strengthen our group-sufficiency.
On our own, we are inadequate to handle all of the requirements of self-sufficient living while maintaining a certain standard of living. But together, as a group, as a community, we have the potential to acquire all the skills we need to not only survive, but to thrive in an environment of abundance and cooperation. Indeed, this is not a new idea, E plurbus unum, “out of many, one” is the essence of this idea. Our country’s motto is this very idea of cooperation, and speaks to the compliment of skills we possess. This idea is essential to our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Group-sufficiency is our answer for living a life that is inline with our values, without compromise.