by a community-minded spirit
We have stayed in a few intentional communities (and more are coming up in the future) – everything from a group of friends living together “half family half commune” to the website-toting mission-statemented Permanent Hospitality Project Berlin, from families in Laos to a community house in Estonia.
We have seen different structures, different systems, different organisation, different communication, different ideals, different realities. We have also seen common threads. And we are left with plenty of questions, which I intend to throw out to cyberspace. Feel free to comment. Or even answer!
Is it uncharitable to turn people away?
We have been fortunate to have been taken in by people, who really did not have room for us. Did they need to? Would relationships in their homes have been less strained if they had limited themselves to the number of guests they could host comfortably without an extra eleven squishing in? Or were the stresses there anyway? Let’s face it, in the smallest place we have stayed, a 6m circular ger in Mongolia, filled with seventeen people, there was no friction at all. Who knows?
Can the “we’re all adults and will pitch in with whatever needs doing” philosophy work anywhere? Won’t a minority always end up doing the lion’s share of the work, while the rest “don’t see” the needs. Are people not going to learn to think if they are given a responsibility (aka chore <wink>) to be in charge of (ie do themselves or delegate out or find willing helpers to work together or pay someone to do!!) for a week? Are chore lists so bad? Would it hurt to let people know how much it is costing for them to take a five minute shower or boil a kettle of water? (Of course the Berlin group do not think this is a bad idea – they purchased a little doodad to help them work out exactly that while we were there. One hour of internet is the same as two cups of coffee.)
How does communication in a many-person household differ from smaller groups? How do you let newcomers know the routines/expectations/number of people who will be around for dinner? How do you resolve conflicts? To what extent can one person speak on behalf of the entire group?
Do all such communities have a common goal? What happens when someone joins, who does not share the original vision? How do you let people know what your vision is before they sign up?
How do equal-sharing communities work their finances? Who pays for what? How are decisions made about how to spend common money? Who is responsible for paying the rent, buying the toilet paper?
I told you there were lots of questions!