“It was just a great day.”

People said it for days afterwards as they smiled warm, happy, peaceful smiles. Their bodies were relaxed and they appeared comfortable, connected and at peace.

They were referring to a community festival in the Hillside area of LaGrange, Georgia. LaGrange is a small southern town with a deep history of racial and economic divide. The organizers of this festival created an atmosphere of shared community with local art, services and food vendors and music with local musicians. The festival was adjacent to the local Montessori school’s Earth Day festival and the two were woven together beautifully. The weather was wonderful all day and the feeling up and down Garfield Street was one of connection and community.

In March this year I wrote about metta, or loving-kindness, meditation and the neurological impact of this type of meditation. It leads to a sense of connection and compassion; decreases bias against others who are different from us and decreases strong reactions to negative emotions. It was clear that this festival created this same neurological environment.

But the festival was really the vehicle. It brought people together and gave them opportunities to interact in positive ways, gave them opportunity to connect as neighbors, as people with common experiences, environment, goals, joys and struggles. They felt interwoven and connected.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about the beloved community. He mentioned that its creation would require a “qualitative change to our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” This festival was evidence that opportunities for community not only require these changes, they also create them.

Challenge yourself and your community to create these opportunities at all levels; in your personal interactions with others and in the opportunities to create common spaces for all people, regardless of age, race, religion, socioeconomic conditions.

As winter melts into spring and summer and we emerge from our homes, spend time with each other in the beloved community.