I have been doing a lot of thinking about the building qualities of puzzle pieces over simple squares or rectangle pieces when it comes to a metaphor for community. This is partly because we have these large puzzle pieces as name tags and we wear them at our general meetings. Now square pieces are easy to move around and you can build images quite quickly with them. However if the table they are sitting on gets bumped then the image disappears in a jumble. Puzzle pieces on the other hand take more work to assemble. You have look for the right fit and you can be sure that even pieces that seem to be right won’t be and you’ll have to try again. However once you get those pieces connected you pretty much have to knock the table over before they separate.
The process of creating a community, any community can be overwhelming. There is the temptation to just it done, put names on a paper or people on committees. Than hope that mysteriously everyone will feels like they belong and they are contributing to that community in meaningful ways. Sadly when these kinds of communities experience a few bumps along the way (and there are always bumps) the community devolves in a group of individuals with little loyalty and compassion for the others. Building community that can withstand the bumps takes time. It also takes experimentation as every member takes on various roles in the community seeking to discover where they fit, where they feel useful and what the community needs from them. Rarely does someone come along with all the knowledge and experience that a new role requires. Human puzzle pieces don’t come pre-made, there is a great deal of learning and development required for the individual pieces to find their right spot.
Except in the vaguest way I certainly didn’t know the differences between a co-op and a condo corporation. We all had to learn lots to make sense of what is required and to make informed decisions about the direction of our co-housing project. I, like most in the project, have been in more than one circle/task group trying to find where I could be of the most help. It hasn’t been easy and the more I think about it the more I realize that if it was easy then we wouldn’t have much of a community at the end of the project. Finishing the building(s) do not make the project a success. It will be the quality, the bump resistant quality of the community that is the true gauge of success and there can be no short cuts in building it.