Given the current climate in Patagonia and beyond I’ve been thinking long and hard about what makes a person a community member.

I recently conducted a poll. Using my social media I asked, “What does it mean to be a community member?” 

There were the people who took the question literally. “Living among others in a community makes one a community member.” And to them I say “well duh.” 

But it was the other answers that really warmed my heart. Laura Wenzel responded by saying, “A community member, or a good community member in my eyes, is someone who gets things done. Is caring, compassionate, someone that people can turn to and rely on for assistance and guidance. Perhaps a leader? Not one who is entirely self serving or only seeks to leach and profit off the people around them.” 

Linda Shore believes “being willing to work behind the scenes to make things better for everyone without expecting anything in return separates members of the community from the inhabitants of the town.” 

Past residents even chimed in. 

Bryan Jungers, who now lives in 

Tucson, stated, “The difference between a member of a community and simply acting as a “rugged individualist” comes down to connectedness. It’s about empathy. Do you know (and care) about what other members of your community are going through? Are you actively contributing to do your part, to help improve the lives of members of your community? If you can honestly say “yes” then you are a community member.” 

So to all of you “rugged individualists” this message is for you. To take an excerpt from Mary Tolena’s comment, “Communities are the whole that’s greater than the sum of the parts; the engine that keeps them running is reciprocity.” We are all mutually dependant on one another whether we like it or not. 

Together everyone achieves more. “Our customs and traditions matter” wrote Cynthia Matus-Morris. Community members laugh together, cry together and mourn our losses together. Not all of us like each other but it is understood that there is plenty for everyone so long as we stay in our own lanes. 

Naturally, I asked my husband, Zach, what his definition of a community member was. His comments never disappoint. “A community member is someone like Bernice Pomroy. She gave away what she knew by way of piano lessons, flowers and smiles…And the Patagonia Volunteer firefighters… they care if our town burns down.”

This is simplistic but to the point. Number one: To be a good community member you need to give away what you know, without expecting anything in return. Number two: You need to care if the town is burning down. 

At any given point someone’s “town” is burning down and it is the responsibility of the community to recognize and put out those flames. I leave you with a portion of a comment from Perin McNelis: “Being a community member requires true listening to what is already valued.”

We all value the community we have created. We like it this way and I’m pretty sure we will fight like hell to keep it.