In our culture of institutions and systems (some generative and some harmful) we are tempted to feel stressed by all the demands on our time, and overwhelmed as doing good. We attempt to conserve energy by withdrawing, and end up feeling alone, issolated, and become even easier prey for those less-than-generative systems that would like to plug us in as lonely, lost, consumers. To resist this we need others who help us remember that we are not alone, not an overlooked cog in the machine.
To choose to participate in associational life means you choose to be in a more formal relationship with a group of people. You want to be with them for your own interests. Few associations come together to do a social good. For people to do a real social good, they come together for some other reason and do a social good out of their peripheral vision. Otherwise, it is a system.
We can be grateful for those systems that fight for a cause, and join them with intention. However, take the time to consider what other associations you have and how they nourish possibilities. Friendship develops into association when it has a consistency, when we invite inquiry and challenge, and when it requires intention to participate.
For activists, clergy, and community leaders especially, our lives can fill up with system commitments and we miss the beauty of associations that can simply integrate a social good into life “out of their peripheral vision.” Perhaps it would be worth celebrating and “re-upping” with one association that helps you do just that— a place that is not always ordered or controlled, but nevertheless builds into your sense of belonging to others. If you are stumped by this challenge, consider asking someone you know well if they see this gap or opportunity in your day-to-day. Often our passion and focus can keep us blind to the larger picture.
McKnight, John. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (pp. 71-72). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.