Community vs. Village

The difference between the two has been rolling around in the dusty corners of my head for quite some time now. I have been a gatherer of real-life examples for about a year now. Listening deeper, reading between the lines more, asking different questions, and ultimately coming home to put them in the pot and stir them around with what I gathered on previous excursions. The scent becoming more fragrant, the sauce thickening, I have become more settled in what I am seeing and sensing enough so, I am humbly offering you a small bowl of what I have been able to put together. Thank you for sitting at my table and joining me in this wonderment.

Community seems to be something that we are all striving to be part of. Something we are all wanting to ‘belong’ to.

It seems that we enjoy sitting around agreeing with each other. We thrive in spaces where like-minded individuals are thriving as well. We crave the time we spend with like-minded individuals. It boosts our confidence, feeds our emotional cup, and ultimately gives us the strength to go out and evangelize once again. We are able to complain on social media about the injustices in systems, of large organizations and even get the nerve to stand up for something in person. We can all agree that these communities are good for humanity and that we need collective agreements for activism, for awareness, and for change.

I am thinking, however, that the word community is perhaps all-encompassing more than it should. That it is placating and essentially numbing us into a sense of what is best. It isn’t the “united we stand” that I am questioning, but more the “sameness” and the consequence of preaching to the choir.

Stick with me here for a moment.

Communities, come together over a common goal. Mental Illness, Religion, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, etc. Wonderful really, that we can rally around each other over a common goal. But at some point, are we all not just nodding our heads at each other? What inside these communities is really challenging us to think bigger, broader, or perhaps differently if we are spending much of our time agreeing with each other? I will be regretfully crude (but you know how I am), it’s like we are all fluffers on a porn movie set. Priming each other’s ego to “get out there and perform.” While I think perhaps that may not be the intention of community, I do believe we need to take into consideration that there is a hole in what we call community. That hole is the loss of village making.

Each with their own job and their own way of life.

Way back before metal birds were flying through skies before vessels crossed seas and perhaps even before trains traversed the land, people spent most of their lives in one village. This village was compromised of a group of craftsmen. A blacksmith, a bakery, and why not… a candlestick maker. Each with their own job and their own way of life. They were valuable to their village because each person brought a different skill that was required for the betterment of the whole. However, the reverse was also true! Not only did the village need them, but they needed the village!

The lack of travel machines also provided the village with another valuable asset that I will call a generational wealth of knowledge. Craftsmen typically passed their craft on to their children. Each child learning from all the generations before, creating not only deep expertise but also a sense of pride and belonging. After all, a village only needed one blacksmith, one baker…and well, you get the idea. It was assumed that sons and daughters would take on the role of their parents and it was also assumed that the village would always make room for that to happen.

Fast forward to today, where we not only get to pick any job we want but we also get to have our own personal version of Jesus, of yoga, of smudging, etc. We can quickly see that the demand for personal preferences has developed so deeply that it has become more important than anything else we do. From the right to not be offended to the cereal aisle, we are bombarded by what I would so boldly call the deification of individualism.

Harsh, perhaps and let’s be honest, not always a bad thing! I like wild blueberries from Nova Scotia just as much as Madonna. I just don’t like them so much that I need to them flown over an ocean in time for breakfast. The Tsunami of choice has lead to every person being able to create their own version of perfect despite any hurdles or any offenses and I am grateful for it…mostly. But what did we lose when the individual became more important than the village?

I think we lost 3 things:

Village Making Mentality

When we were liberated from our village making ways with the ability to travel quickly and began flourishing as individuals. It was wonderful to journey through the world and see so many perspectives. It helped us develop what it meant to be an individual, we were able to bring this knowledge back to our village and tell stories about what we saw, bring it into our craftsmanship, and deepen our knowledge again. However, the more we traveled and the more we stayed away, the more we felt a lack of connection. So we sought out fellow travelers who were feeling the same thing and developed what we know now as Community. And while I think Community helped ease the pain of a lost village, I cannot believe that it replaces it.

A village was successful because of the diversity and Communities are successful because of commonality.


We have lost what it means to know one thing deeply. Take smudging as an example. Real estate agents are doing smudging ceremonies for their clients. I mean seriously… Smudging is a very deep tradition that is not just about making a house smell good and ridding it of evil. It’s about growing the plants, caring for them, the soil, there is ritual around when to plant and when to harvest. It’s deep and important from start to finish. There are a ton of examples of this, in fact, the rise of entrepreneurship demands us to know a little about everything. We live in a “just checking” world where no one reads and everyone knows a little bit about everything. There is no craftsmanship anymore. What would your life look like if you were to learn a craft deeply?


No one has to rely on us if we don’t want them to. We can walk away with any number of excuses. We know that the people we are letting down can always find someone else to do it. But what if disaster strikes and our village blacksmith cannot make shoes in time for the harvest? There is a ripple of consequences to that. The village comes in to help, the son steps up and puts his learnings into practice, and to my point, the blacksmith then reciprocates when it’s someone else’s turn to fall short. The village swells because they need to. They are all invested and it is this investment in each other that we rarely see today.

We all see or are part of, communities doing really wonderful things. I am not saying they need to be replaced, quite the opposite, however! We need communities to thrive! But could it be that village-mindedness creates better communities? I believe that if we can focus on village making the winning result could be a community with a more diverse population and with a deeper sense of what it means to be part of something.

What could village making look like for you inside your communities? Could it mean having an opposing viewpoint heard? Could it mean relying on each other for different work? Could it mean learning something deeply? There are as many options to ponder as there are minutes in a lifetime. I assure you, however, that sitting down for this meal, having these ideas roll around your head, and perhaps adding your own expertise to them is in fact village making.

I look forward to receiving your thoughts.

Sarah Hines
Sarah Hines
I met a man one blurry night in Manhattan, and little did I know, he would be the soil in which my passion for grief work was to be planted. He had been rejected by his family for his life choices and was preparing for death without them. Helping him through his struggle to come to terms with his love for them and in turn his forgiveness while going through treatments, rejection, and coming to terms with his own death and grief was an unimaginable amount of stress and it literally set me in activism mode. It was shortly after his death, I completed training in Palliative Care Home Hospice. I volunteered in men’s homes for 5 years before the medications became reliable and being gay wasn’t always breaking family ties. Some of the most amazing times I have had in my life have been in the homes of dying. Strange, yes.. but so beautifully honest and raw. I then completed the Children’s Palliative Care Training and dove into the heartbrokenness of dying children. It is in these years I really came to understand just how fickle death can be and how much we embrace death and our grief. It seems that in times of what we would consider the most unimaginable, we are able to find glimmers of beauty, cracks of light and the nourishment in tears. Over the last 20 years, I have carried on with my education in a variety of ways including Coach and Leadership Training, Orphan Wisdom School and Grief Groups. My connection into corporate grief has been slow. It’s something that most organizations do not want to think about. I am inspired by those that see value in bringing grief work into the way they lead teams through uncertainty and the trust this work builds.


  1. Good thoughts, Sarah, thanks for sharing. Unfortunately, today our ‘communities’ are digital—as this one is, for example—and the concept of ‘village’ has become quaint and old-fashioned. We could discuss the reasons that we no longer have toe same needs for each other, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and we could mention Marx and his argument against capitalism’s alienation of workers etc. But I feel of all the issues you bring up, the most pernicious these days is our effort to silo with our own tribe, and to wallow in the company of those we agree with.
    Thanks again, let’s hear more.


  2. Good questions, Sarah.

    Just like it doesn’t make you brave to do something dangerous you are not afraid of – brave is doing it IN SPITE OF being afraid – being committed is not when you do something on the days you feel like it. It is showing up even on days when you DON’T feel like it.

    What it the impact of not showing up, even if it doesn’t seriously inconvenience the person with whom you have an appointment because you can send a text before the other person has left home or work? While the other person may be relieved because they are actually too busy, chance is that it also leaves the impression that they are not that important to you. It may be a correct impression, only you know that, but it does chip away on your trustworthiness. Particularly if it is a recurring pattern.
    Modern communication has made it dangerously easy to destroy our own trustworthiness. Perhaps that is one reason why we don’t trust each other?






"No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it."


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