Re: Pet policy and sharing policies
From: Lia Olson (
Date: Sun, 2 Jul 2006 11:34:24 -0700 (PDT)
When rereading portions of the thread on pet policies, I found myself musing on
three specific comments.  In one, someone said she was grateful to have the
information about Trillium Hollow's code, since it demonstrated to her that
this would not be a community in which she could comfortably live.  That seemed
sad to me -- since ONE aspect of life in that community was creating a wall
that appeared unbreachable.  In another, someone expressed discomfort with the
rash of negative responses and said that he/she (I forget which?) would
hesitate to publicly share specific policies in the future. Again, that seemed
sad, since the discussion on the list was experienced as criticism and again,
created a wall limiting communication.   But, in the most recent, prospective
newcomers were encouraged to get to know members and share concerns about
policies that feel uncomfortable--even asking if reconsideration is possible. 
I don't know if that's a common attitude, but it seemed like one that
encouraged connection, respect and communication and was very heartening to me.

Policies tend to reflect the values of the people who develop them at a
particular period in time--often in response to particular problems or
experiences.  If they go forever unchallenged, they can become either
needlessly limiting or frustratingly inadequate.  No one would blink twice at
revisiting a rule that didn't go far enough at solving a problem.   But, so
often, we let rules that might be more restrictive than actually necessary rest

I would hope that specific rules would not become rigid screening mechanisms
that keep people of responsibility and sensitivity from considering joining
communities in which they might otherwise be harmonious members.  It seems like
an eminently intelligent practice for communities to question and rethink their
rules if reasonable and thoughtful people express concern about them.   The
comments that I've read on this list were certainly not hostile or
contemptuous, but merely demonstrated that, for a number of good,
community-oriented people, a particular policy would constitute a puzzling
stumbling block.  I see that as information which might actually be valuable. 
I must be a natural co-houser, because I think that dialogue is always worth
the time and effort.   Explaining the underpinnings of a decision gives one a
chance to review whether it still meets current needs, whether it merits
revision, or whether outcomes have validated it's wisdom.   

If a community had a totally libertarian attitude toward pets and an otherwise
appealing candidate appeared who had allergies that would make participation in
group meetings impossible were pets to frequent the common house, wouldn't the
group want to know the problem and consider whether it could be solved rather
than see that person simply withdraw?    If good and responsible people who
have pets as part of their families would be unable to live under a
particularly tight code regarding animals, wouldn't one want to consider
whether the rules in question are the best that could be hammered out, or
whether the spirit in which they were invoked could be protected with a little
more measure of individual freedom?    It's not unusual for experience or
changing conditions to produce a different perspective when considering
decisions made in the past.   Perhaps doubts that lurked then turn out to be
have been dispelled by the benefits that ensued, and perhaps fears that fueled
the decision turn out to have been unfounded.   One never knows without being
willing to revisit, rethink, and reconsider.  

Of course, it would be ridiculouly burdensome to undertake annual or regular
reviews of all policies, but when one presents a stumbling block to reasonable
people, it seems like a virtue to at least consider whether this is a case of a
code that has turned out to warrant further tinkering or whether it has proved
a value that transcends any disadvantages.   Rules, I think, turn out to work
best when we're absolutely sure that they serve the community, as opposed to
merely make the individuals in the community bend.  It's sometimes hard to make
the distinction, but when members or prospective members complain of
metaphorical cricks in their backs from stooping and twisting, sometimes it's
worth trying.  Then, if all you can do is offer a tube of Ben Gay to staunch
the discomfort, at least everyone knows why and feels heard and respected.  

Doesn't this issue demonstrate with startling vividness how many qualities are
needed to live in community -- unflagging courage, endless patience, wide-open
mind, dogged empathy and warm-hearted tolerance.   It gives me hope that so
many people want to take on the challenge.  

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