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The Dark Side of Community
Remember: Help is Not Always Helpful
by William Polowniak, Ph.D.

For many years now I have read the ads for communities seeking new residents and the ads of seekers wanting to find the ideal place to live. I have met some of you and visited many communities over the years. I believe that many seekers of community are indulging in denial and hiding from the realities of life. We pretend that those around us do not see our neglect. When we dream, we picture in our minds what would be ideal and hope to find it—but we do little to create it. And we begin not creating it with ourselves. With the seekers readiness we seek rather than create. By hoping to find community somewhere else we surrender the power all people have to make it happen right where we are. It begins, I believe, with the relationship we have with ourselves. We have all heard that, indeed, “Cleanliness leads to Godliness.” I have seen an almost invisible trait in all seekers of community, myself included when I was younger and not fully awake to the potential that requires one to be 100% awake and ready, and responsible for creating what we want.
    What is the dark side of community? It is the delusions we intoxicate ourselves with. We say when we visit or join a community “I want cleanliness.” Yet we leave our dishes for that unknown other to do. We leave the litter on the floor. I have even seen people step over items in their pathway rather than take less than 3 seconds to pick it up and move it. We say “I love to garden.” Yet we do the so typically obvious thing. We garden and weed for maybe one week—or more blatantly obvious, only one day—then we do nothing for the rest of our time with the community.
    What else do we do that eats away at the fabric of community? We intrude into the privacy of others with loud music, we leave lights on and thereby cause pollution because the electricity generating plants must burn more fuel and deplete the ozone layer, we allow our shady acquaintances to visit at all hours without explaining house guidelines, we let conflict slide and don’t deal with what needs to be confronted, we indulge in gossip without confirming the truth or falsity of our fears, and worst of all we expect someone else to do it for us. We yearn for others to take care of us, to cook for us, to clean for us—and when they do we refuse to give back. We refuse to share the cost of hired help like carpet cleaning, hired gardeners to weed when we do not. We echo our favorite mantra— “I can’t afford it.” We indulge in poverty consciousness. We take. We do not give.
We take other people’s favorite foods that they bought for private consumption. And we usually do this when it is late at night when no one can see. We take things we should not take. We do not replace things we borrow. And if we are asked we deny. We also indulge in alcohol or drugs, we overuse incense because it is supposed to be cool. We do not even consider that incense is an airborne pollutant. And worst of all, when we are finally face to face with someone who will not tolerate our behavior we pull out the big gun—we use anger, shouting, blame and criticism. We have a temper tantrum and leave in anger when we have depleted the good will of those who gave us their trust. Then we move on to another gullible group who might be seeking an ideal community outside the now. If you can create community with yourself, first, you can live any-where. It begins where you are. For me, natural hygiene begins with cleanliness. Clean body, clean food, clean relationships, and most of all not allowing the inconsiderate person to be that way even for one day. We become the caretaker. And we care, first about ourselves, then about our environment, then about those we invite into the environment we call community. We use what I call “tough trust.” To create community we must do it where we are. Only then can we join others and become a mature contributor. Only then can we add our special unique energy to our collective dream of the ideal community family.
    At Whole Health Foundation we have recently had to ask a new resident to shape up or ship out. We did this as a total unified family of 14 trying to be soft and compassionate. Our problem person moved on but not until he attempted to manipulate us with anger, and denial. What was the first sign you might wonder? His room was filthy—a pig sty. We just could not allow simple cleanliness to be ignored. We had to use tough trust. We had to say “No” to indifference, waste, and neglect. We had to get tough. Help is not always helpful. This is hard to learn, but true.

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