Medical researchers and self-help writers point to how a purposeful life helping others can lead to greater happiness and longevity.
They typically focus on “how” to live a more purposeful life. But they often overlook “where” to live a more purposeful life. The “where” can also provide meaning in our lives.
An excellent recent article that focuses on the “where” is by David Brooks in the Atlantic, called The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake. Brooks describes how subdivisions and housing in the U.S. have caused us to become too separated from one another. We no longer have easy access to friends, family, or a support structure as was the case 100 years ago or currently in other parts of the world. This separation and isolation have, of course, intensified in these COVID times.
Brooks mentions cohousing as an alternative to isolated nuclear families. In cohousing, everyone owns their private homes but intentionally plan to interact as a community.
Emerson Commons in Crozet, Virginia (near Charlottesville) is an example of such a community.
As an ecovillage, it will be the first all-solar community in Virginia. But what really sets this community apart are the many characteristics that encourage community and neighborliness, and therefore life purpose.
At Emerson Commons in Crozet, we have designed a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood where we cross paths with each other often. Friendships span across the generations from age 1 to 81.
Deep front porches allow easily taking the time to stop and chat. A beautiful club house allows us to have potlucks and neighborhood events together.
Neighbors co-manage the community and meet each other that way. For example, people can attend landscaping workdays. Working together with your neighbors rather than hiring a management company both saves money and builds connections.
As one eight year old in the photo below said, “We work together, which makes everything easier. And we play together, which makes everything more fun!”
“Below is a picture of a socially-distanced HOA meeting at Emerson Commons.
A beautiful pool, walking trails by a creek, orchard, raised bed gardens, and multiple playgrounds give us further excuses to connect with our neighbors.
We all have our own private energy-efficient homes with solar panels, private backyards and private spaces. But our homes also have a high happiness-per-square-foot due to the functioning community.
One of the major points of cohousing is a balance between privacy and community. All homes have private backyards with forests, creek and/or mountain views.
“Strange is our situation here upon earth. each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine purpose. From the stand point of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know; that we are here for the sake of others.” – Albert Einstein
We live a purposeful life by helping others. As Einstein stated, we are here primarily for the sake of others. Our main life purpose might be volunteering or mission-oriented career. But we gain a bonus extra meaning in our lives when we also contribute to the lives of the people immediately around us.
Emerson Common still has houses for sale and rent so please check out our website, including bios of neighbors at www.emersoncommons.org