Being Community: Folklore

There’s this thing that happens when you’ve been with a group of people for a while, you build up stories. Eventually the stories start to morph, some by a little others by a lot. These stories become part of the collective conscience of the group, they bind and bond you as a group. Not only do they bind the group but they become a means of welcome for outsiders. Sharing these beloved stories with an outsider invites them to become part of the group – part of the story and collective conscience of the group.

A community does not exist without shared stories. Minus the stories they are a social grouping. It is the stories that provide the context for creation, existence and love within the community. This is one of the significant theories behind the initiation process in fraternities and sororities. Initiation binds a class of men or women together with a shared story of their initiation as well as the shared stories of their brothers’ and sisters’ initiations. This bonding of stories – in theory – allows for a closer relationship and a deeper trust.

The struggle is that while communal folklore can bind a community together it can also strangle the community to death. Folklore needs to be a living set of stories, growing and changing and especially being added to. If the folklore is always about the “good ol’ days,” the community can become stagnant and incapable of moving forward out of fear of losing those memories. This sort of stangnance will result in those longing to move forward leaving the group and those unable or unwilling to make change being left. A continually growing group will be continually adding to the corpus of stories that binds them.

As members of shared communities – be they businesses, fraternal organizations, churches or any other type of community – we need to be regularly asking the question of whether the folklore of this community is being added to or is it the thing that is holding us back. If it is the former, good on you. If it is the latter, what are you going to do to add to the stories of the group and move it forward?

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