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Third Space

Consider a place, a room, a store, a place you have been that made you feel comfortable, relaxed, whole.

Was it your Grandmother’s family room?

Your Granddad’s garden?

The coffee shop near your first apartment?

That staff lounge at the summer camp you worked for many summers?

I have heard the term “the third space” for years. I think I first learned about it on the wall of a coffee shop in Northern Virginia.

As defined by Wikipedia,

“the third place is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. In his influential book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place.

Oldenburg calls one’s “first place” the home and those that one lives with. The “second place” is the workplace — where people may actually spend most of their time. Third places, then, are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in modern times is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to current societal needs. Oldenburg suggests these hallmarks of a true “third place”: free or inexpensive; food and drink, while not essential, are important; highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance); involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there; welcoming and comfortable; both new friends and old should be found there.”

Like the Bar in Cheers…

or Central Perk in the TV show Friends.

Or the “Max” on Saved by the Bell. Yes, I am dating myself here but the point remains.

There are so many examples of Third Space in TV land, but few, I would argue, exist in our daily lives.

My husband’s third space would likely be a Mountain stream.

My sister in law might chose a quiet corner of a book store or library.

My brother might feel whole, comfortable and welcome in a record store like the one in High Fidelity (yes, another TV  / Film  reference which means the place is fictional).

Mine for the last few weeks has been church.

Problem is – we don’t have, make or create time for these third space experiences. We don’t make them priorities and they get pushed off the schedule, traded for a trip to the pharmacy or yet another event we don’t really want to attend.

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