Random Guy, Sharing and Community

“Some random guy filled up himself and his water bottle with my hose this afternoon.”  That was how I began a status update on my Facebook page.  I actually thought it was kind of cool that he did it. I mean, I haven’t done something like that since I was a kid.  A few comments were made about the prudence of his act (ie: the safety of the hose) and not owning the hose or water.  But, since I hadn’t even thought of those things, I wondered why I hadn’t.

I was actually very pleased that he chose my hose.  The idea that someone needed some water and filled up made me feel like I helped out somehow.  It reminded me of my childhood — those moments of sharing, of feeling safe enough to drink from a neighborhood hose (even on another block).  It was notable to see Random Guy doing it, because no one does anything like that anymore!

And that just might be worth thinking about.

It touches on a deeper issue about whether there are limits to “community,” if community is to be measured by the degree of sharing (and vice versa).  Sure, in the best neighborhoods you know your neighbors, share stuff (from lemons to gossip) with them, socialize and support each other.  You generally have a sense of community with the people who are there all the time, who have agency through residency or “official” guest status.  But how should we feel when someone with none of this momentarily steps in the bubble?

Do we welcome them?  Do we “one-eyed-suspicion” them?  And, how should they feel?

I suppose as with any ideas about community, some of it is about who’s seeking entry and how.  Random Guy didn’t look scary, just thirsty.  He had to reach through the spiny bougainvillea to the spigot, too.  (So it wasn’t the greatest experience for him.)  He apologized when I came out to investigate.  He had stepped squarely into the bubble…and I didn’t mind.  What if it had been my tomatoes?  I have a zillion tomatoes.  I wouldn’t care if someone took a few.  But, there’s a difference between taking what you need and taking the whole plant.  If Random Guy had pulled up a car and started washing it, now that would be a problem.  But, it would be a problem if anyone did that.

Some of the ideas about community rest on how we define actions and what makes us happy.  I considered the hose use sharing, not stealing.  And I liked sharing my water.  Sharing can make you happy!  In a recent study, eight out of ten UK residents reported that sharing makes them happy (but not sharing their toothbrushes). Indeed, over half of the respondents said they’d “love to find ways of being able to share their time and resources within their local community.”

So, it looks like two of the prerequisites for bubble entry are acceptability (ie: don’t be scary) and positive impact (ie: make me happy).  Random Guy satisfied both.  If he comes back, I’ll ask him his name.

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