What Makes a Community?

My time thus far in Sarajevo has been filled with a tremendous amount of rich experience which I can only and must contribute to each beautiful person I have been spending my time with. This has motivated me to explore the concept of community. What makes a community? Merriam-Webster defines community as “a unified body of individuals; society at large; and, a joint ownership or participation.”

As a social work student, community is often a point of focus in my program at the Graduate School of Social Work. Community is what brings people together, tears them apart and the framework for how relationships are formed, developed, and nurtured. With that being stated, living in another country other than my own has forced me to evaluate and face many harsh realities and dramatic differences between American and Bosnian culture.

Sitting with my colleagues and new Bosnian friends, often, enjoying Bosnian coffee (or, Bosanska kaffa) has taught me the joy of café culture as a staple in Bosnian daily life. Coffee is not only a source of culinary enjoyment, but a important time to slow down, be present and socialize. Seating is, for the most part, outside and it is very rare to see a person sitting alone drinking coffee.Image

Admittedly, I am not a regular coffee drinker or a fan of coffee. Personally, the taste is only somewhat agreeable to my palate and it is rare for me to drink coffee in the states. However, sitting outside with friends on a sunny Bosnian morning enjoying a warm, lightly sugared, frothy Cappuccino or Bosanska kaffa is one example of the perfect experience of being in a community.

I smile as I write about this small example of community because if I did not smile, I could not accurately express my enthusiasm. Yet, my enthusiasm comes with disappointment. Why can’t Americans slow down in such a way? Why must Americans always be stuck in fast forward? I think often about how I can share small moments of my experience with you (my beloved reader) because my hope is that you too can slow down and be present.

The pioneer of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat-Zinn, shares in his book, “Full Catastrophe Living” a small, yet powerful notion – “. . . experiment with living intentionally from moment to moment.”

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Café culture in Bosnia-Herzegovina is more than just drinking coffee. It is a philosophical approach to self-care and being in a community.

To share love, stories, experiences, friends, family, politics, religion, etc. in your community promotes peace and serenity for the human condition. Perhaps this daily routine of having one, two, three or more Bosanska kaffas is not at all small, but quite dynamic and unifying.

To my exceptional friends, hvala.

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One thought on “What Makes a Community?

  1. Great post, Jillian! When I first moved to the States, I described Americans as” running through life with pasted smiles on their faces.” After living here for over 15 years I became a “fast runner” myself. Your post reminded me on the aspect of my culture I miss very much.

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