To speak clearly, one must think clearly. To think clearly, one must know what one is speaking of. Defining the terms is important – especially as I’m going to turn some common use on its head.
Community: A) A locale (e.g. town, neighborhood) B) A group of people in your local area with whom you regularly interact. (e.g. church, neighborhood watch, farmer’s market, etc). Community means casseroles. Not literally, how many of us have had a casserole this month? But if you are asking yourself, “is it possible for me to pop over to this person’s home or place of business with material aid in case of need at a moment’s notice” and the answer is “no”, you are not in community. Community = casserole is shorthand. More about community here. You may, however, be in…
Association: A group of people drawn together by common interest, regardless of location. This can be professional or personal. Gluten-free bakers of America, the Sewing Guild, your church’s denominational conference members – or just a group of folks with a common interest who haven’t bothered to name themselves really. Almost NONE of these groups call themselves “associations”, they normally call themselves “communities” but while they sometimes pass the hat to offer monetary assistance in case of emergency, the majority of its members can’t just show up with food, warm blankets, or offers of babysitting.
Comrade (or companion. ally): Someone with whom one has common ground, common goals, and a reasonably pleasant relationship. This is now often referred to as “friend”, because Americans in particular are mad to call everyone “friends”. We are all on first-name bases, we all hug, we all make semi-intimate small talk. This confusion is not helpful, because a companion might well show up with a casserole, but a companion is not one with whom one mourns. They may be good folk (and there is no insult in being a companion, one can only maintain so many true friendships) but they are outside the innermost circle.
Friends: I will simply quote C.S. Lewis here.. Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’… It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.
Acquaintance: Someone one knows by sight and name, of however many minutes or years. One need have no common denominators. Neither ally or opponent, they are an unknown.
Opponent: Someone on the other side of a debate or issue, whether that issue is political, religious or simply whether to paint the sidewalks pink. An opponent can be one’s bosom friend, but companionship seldom survives opposition.
Enemy: Someone who is actively working towards the detriment of oneself, one’s family, one’s friends, one’s country.
Family: Blood relation. Friends can rise to the status of family, largely in the absence of blood ties on one or both sides, but friends cannot truly be considered ‘family” until they are not merely interested in your own needs, but are willing to shoulder some obligation to your extended family. I think we often speak of “friends” as “family” because we don’t have much understanding of how close and precious friendship itself is.