Create Community: Place Attachment

In my very first blog post, I told you all about a place that I consider my Comfort Table.  I explained a bit about why I chose this place over my childhood home, though it is somewhat amusing that I feel more rooted to this place than where I grew up.

“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.”               –Joan Didion

Certain memories are deeply embedded that solidify my Comfort Table as Michigan and not Indiana.  I have my opinions about why, but when I started to read this book, certain puzzle pieces came together.

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Author Melody Warnick was known for picking up and leaving any place that lost its allure after the typical honeymoon stage.  She moved several times post-college, always drawn to the ideal of a clean slate.  Years later when she had packed up her husband and kids for yet another job (or clean slate), she suddenly realized she wasn’t really going to be all that different in each place.

Even though they had just moved to a small college town in Virginia from Austin, Texas, she had somehow already written this new home off as “not her forever home.”  Why was she always doing this?  Was it possible to love where she lived now?  “What started as This is the place! would be edged out over time by geographic FOMO, or fear of missing out, a vague dread that someplace better existed in the world and I didn’t live there.”

So Warnick started to do some research (she is a journalist after all) as to why people love where they live.  She uncovered a term that she used often in her book called place attachment which suggests the “affectionate,  almost familial connection that can form between us and where we live.”  She discovered that place attachment is a combination of emotion and belief with action and behavior.  If that was the case, it was possible to learn how to love her town by things she could do.

Vice President of the Knight Foundation Carol Coletta says, “The hundreds of actions taken every day by thousands of people living in a city or a community help determine the future of that community.  When I walk out my door and there’s a piece of trash, do I pick it up?  Do I plant flowers?  Do I say hello to people?  Do I walk?  Do I sit on my porch?  It sounds so small, but those are the things that have a lot to do with the quality of life in a city, and once you can get people doing those things and realizing the impact that collectively they have, that’s where the magic is.”

Hearing that, I evaluated my own experience.  I didn’t really consider myself part of a community until I bought my home.  Though, until then, I had only lived two years in one location.  I’m not sure I had taken the time to consider how I was a part of a community.  When I lived in downtown Chicago, I considered it home.  But cities are full of transient people.  Even if you stay, so many others are moving on: to the suburbs, another city or somewhere else.

Now living in the Chicago suburbs, I do love where I live.  But I would like to put myself to the challenge to connect myself to my community even more.  Please join me in this series as we challenge ourselves to learn more about our own individual communities.  If you are looking to move or settle for the first time, consider some these qualities and action steps in your future community.  If you are already settled, challenge yourself to learn new things about your community.  Next week we’ll learn the first few challenges (out of 10) to loving where you live.

What do you love about your community?  Is your place attachment strong or weak to your area?  I’d love to hear your comments below.