Friday, September 28, 2012

From the Archives - Community: Finding It In Unexpected Places

(in)courage is doing a (in)RL {real life} Check-In Series on community. It is topic near and dear to my heart and one I have written about often. With all the editing and writing I am doing for the book, I decided to sneak back into the archives again for this post on Community. It is in response to this week's question  “How do we build local community: some practical ideas.”

This was originally posted in June 2011 while I was living in Oregon. Our smallish suburb has grown a bit by moving to the Bay Area and yet, I am still a creature of habit who likes to get to know my baristas, librarians, and the people who are around me.


I live in a smallish suburb. Not too small where everyone knows everyone's name but small enough that you run into the same people lots of places in town. I often find one of my kids tugging on my hand after church or at the library saying, "let's go" or Little One's favorite, "you're talking forever." When you first move to a new town, everyone is a stranger. But the more you frequent the same spots, the more you get to know people at preschool drop off or the library story time, you slowly begin to build community in unexpected places. Here are a few of my favorite unexpected favorite places...

Starbucks is the obvious first choice for me. I like to go to the same Starbucks every time. You know you are finally a regular when they know your drink order before you say a word. My Starbucks knows me well enough that I have had friends go in and order my drink and the barista will ask if that is for Jen? I have to say that I think my Starbucks has the best baristas (though in all honesty I will probably think that about our new Starbucks in California as soon as they know my drink.) I also run into so many people in the Starbucks line and love the opportunity to chat for a bit while waiting for our coffees.

The grocery store is another great place to see people. The joke at our house is if we are in a hurry send my husband because if I go to the store it might take a while depending on how many people I run into that I know. Who knew Safeway was such a great place to catch up? Even if I do not see anyone I know from outside of Safeway, I have slowly gotten to know a couple of the checkers. Okay I don't really KNOW them but I can tell if they are having a good day or need an extra smile from me.

The YMCA is another great place to build community. Mind you it is a community of people with headphones in their ears, reading magazines while running or elipticalling next to one another. Occasionally I will run into a friend at the Y. This last set of swim lessons for the kids I got to enjoy reconnecting with someone I knew from a mom's group years ago. But most of my community is faces I see but people I never speak to. If you go at the same time often enough you start to know the rhythms of the the people around you. The people I see each time I go and wonder if they are okay if I have not seen them for a while.

Maybe it helps that I am a creature of habit. We go through the McDonalds drive thru most Tuesday evenings for the $1.25 Happy Meals. (Before you judge we get apple dippers in at least one of the bags and everyone gets milk.) So I should not be surprised when the lady working the drive thru recognizes me and smiles. She also knows to double check that the hamburgers are plain and to give me straws for the milk which is an added bonus being a regular.

This is part of the community I will miss when we move.

What unexpected place have you found community?



  1. I'm visiting from (in)courage! This is a great idea, to frequent the same places. I've thought about community in several different areas, but never this before. Thank you!

    1. When I lived in Oregon it was easy, necessary even, to frequent the same places because there was only one of each in our town. Now that we live in a larger metropolitan area, I have more choices, but I have found myself still trying to choose a specific Starbucks, grocery store, library, etc. so that faces become familiar and I get to know the people I interact with on a daily basis.