Just last month I spent quite a bit of time poking about the Malvern area looking for some great eating places for Local Living Magazine readers to check out. It’s fascinating to meet new people and learn about their talents, especially those working every day to keep their dream of owning a local family-owned business alive.
You can check out my article in Local Living Magazine about four terrific places to grab a bite in Malvern here.
What is a Community?
Learning a strict definition of community is not something we typically learn in school; rather, by going to school we become a part of a community. A community is what exists just outside of our family. So, these community relationships are almost as important as family. The sum total of all of the relationships and interactions within a particular group is a community. We most typically associate a community with a geographic area; although this may not necessarily be the case. The relationships within a community are loose, fluid and random yet distinct patterns exist. Consider your relationship with the people you work with at your bank, or the person who prepares your taxes, the person who cuts your hair, the realtor who sold your house. While they may not feel like the deep emotional bond you have with your parents, your spouse and/ or your children; you sometimes do very important, life changing things with fellow members of your community. Your greatest professional achievements are only possible with them. Otherwise, you’d be living in a cave with your family.
The theme of my weblog is food and photography. My project is to write and photograph the work and play of people in the Delaware Valley. At the center of this project is food because that’s where people will gather. Food, as a art and as a business is at once both work and play. Work for those kitchen and wait staffs, managers and entrepreneurs who bring the food in front of the customer. The customer, who is now at his or her leisure, feels comfort in the service received. I assume two things: first, that everyone wants to live their life to fullest possible and achieve the greatest satisfaction from both work and play. I know I do. And second, I assume that in order to live a full life you must get involved with the real people in your community. Here I will share with you my discoveries as a personal guide about all that our region has to offer someone looking to do these two things. My purpose is simple: to remind anyone that the best way to support those closest to you is to allow them to support you. And the best support comes from those who are close by.
How do you do this? How do you provide meaningful support to your community? There are many ways. For example, the citizens of Malvern organize, promote and attend two festivals each year. As I milled through the stands and displays at the Family Blooms Festival on Sunday I took this community into consideration and learned so much about how the people here live.
One thing I learned right away is that it’s only matter of time before someone from the region becomes a break-out pop sensation. There were two music schools each providing a full bill of entertainment. This young woman is a student at Beam’s School of Music. She can’t be a day older than sixteen yet she already possesses a lifetime supply of inspiring talent. She can sing and play guitar with a certain confidence that I just wouldn’t expect. On the other side of the festival was The Malvern School of Music. At first I thought Robert Irvine was looking to hang up his chef’s coat; but I was mistaken. I couldn’t tell if this guitarist was a student or a teacher but he performed with great strength. While it’s easy to see how private music lessons are a great way to make up for the lack of music education in public schools for your kids, what about those of us working with unrealized dreams? You can see how these music academies each support members of the community struggling to realize his and her dreams. Each of these schools are locally owned, non-franchise businesses employing dozens of music professionals from the region.
I admit I’m an avid social networker. I have been working on my social network for some time. I’ve been reading, experimenting and have cultivated a growing online presence. I suppose you say I’m an active member of the online community. But guess what. All my hard-core Facebooking, Tweeting, Linking In, Yelping, etcetera, would mean nothing without matching those efforts with good, old-fashioned, visceral interaction. Consider the simplest of vendors at the festival. Flower shops, animal boarding and grooming, clothing boutiques, and jewelry makers. Girl Scouts, antiques dealers, bathtub fixers, artists, craftspeople and even photographers. No amount of “likes” or “search engine SEO” would ever amount to the power of this opportunity to meet the public face to face.
Something about being a small business owner that’s not easy to see was apparent in these Tae Kwon Do demonstrations held at the festival. It’s one thing to be a Tae Kwon Do master; to learn the skills and discipline to perform alone for oneself. It’s another thing to be able to teach that skill to young people who have not yet begun to master discipline in their lives in general, let alone control their body and mind as a martial artist. Yet, on top of all that, these Tae Kwon Do Masters are small business owners who must work tirelessly to find youth interested in such training. Without that constant supply of youth the dream would die. They need their community and their community benefits from what they do in the most powerful and direct fashion. The interaction is how community happens.
Therefore, the meaning of community is this first meeting between the youth and his Tae Kwon Do Master, a relationship that will last years. Or it’s the inspiration another youth absorbs from the sound of someone of similar age singing and playing a musical instrument with skill and passion. We may idolize performers on television and dream big but these local performances make it all seem so possible because it is, after all, real. Community is a place where your participation is critical rather than just accepted. Community is also finding a good place to get your hair done or a local farm that sells great organic apple butter. None of these things will ever happen by simply setting up a Facebook page or an eCommerce site.
Further, many of these businesses are crowded out by corporate branding and mass marketing that seeks to lure you away from that visceral experience of dealing with folks from your own town, face to face, working together. Community, in this sense, is visiting a family restaurant or a local theatre and finding alternatives to chain restaurants. Community is discovering Malvern Family Blooms Festival and it is in this sense that I will discover other ways to get involved and live a fuller, more satisfying life.