Acorn is doing an internal survey about what we are looking for in new members. This came out of a discussion and brainstorm from a recent community meeting. The survey is interesting if a bit incomplete. But one of the final questions is what are “deal breakers” for you – people who you would not consider for membership, regardless of how wonderful they might be otherwise. This is my (likely incomplete) list:
Serious drug addict/alcoholic: i don’t actually have that much experience with these states, but i can easily and “prejudicely” imagine that these types of self destructive tendencies could destroy the membership of even the most charming or talented prospective member.
Suicide attempt or mental breakdown in last 6 months. Twin Oaks requires a year of recovery before we will consider someone usually, i could see circumstances in which this could be shorter, especially if giving some amazing person who had a bad run a “visit again” means we would forever lose them. Part of the reason we (Acorn and Twin Oaks) are cautious about these types of things is that we don’t want people running to community to try to get their lives together. If you have had some emotional or other shock that drove you to a breakdown or an attempt on your own life, we want you to have done significant work on that before you put yourself into an unusual environment like community.
Committed to a partner who does not want to be in community. With some regularity couples come to community and one of them is really into it and the other is not. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to not want to live in community, including lack of privacy, pushing whatever your buttons are, limited access to money, limited access to travel, pervasive sharing, vehicles being grounded because other people don’t know how to drive in bad weather, and two dozen other excuses for living alone.
We don’t want to be in the business of breaking up families or couples. If you don’t both legitimately want to live in community, don’t come and apply for membership hoping that the one who is not into it will change their mind. They almost never do.
High impact pets. Were i more concerned with my public image i would hide my dislike of high impact pets. Acorn has some dogs that bark at almost everyone who comes to visit. i wish they did not, it is not the welcoming message i want to be sending to people. We are also completely terrible at training animals to behave in “more civilized” fashions. The thought of adding to this problem at Acorn fills me with dread. At Twin Oaks the dog list is so long no one would come thinking they could get their dog in. I have yet to meet a high impact cat (other than their kill of local animals), but save me the horror stories, i am sure this is just my good luck. And if you have a rhinoceros – well think bio-regionally.
Intolerance. We can deal with lots of different personality types, in fact this is one of the strengths of community. But you have to start from a “live and let live” perspective. I oft joke with visitors and guests that we are “intolerant of intolerance”. And what is true is that if you are homophobic (sic), racist, sexist or classist it is almost certainly not going to work for you to live in one of my egalitarian communities. We could fain tolerance and argue that your beliefs are not wrong, but you just won’t fit in to these communities if you hold these views. Perhaps you should consider a survivalist community in Idaho.
But i am completely comfortable arguing that your beliefs are just wrong.
The reason i was complaining above about the survey being incomplete is because the most important personal trait i look for a in a new member is missing from our list. That is being pro-active. But this is a good topic for another blog post.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]