When I have the opportunity to share ideas about building social capital I often harken back to my upbringing on "Condeluci Hill." Most folks who know me know that I grew up (and still live) on our family "hill" in McKees Rocks, just outside of Pittsburgh. Our family has been on the hill going back to when my grandfather came over from Italy in 1915. They settled in the Pittsburgh area because of relatives that came to America a couple years before.
When I was born on the hill, there were 8 Condeluci families who lived up there. Today there are 11 families either on, or coming up to the hill. Growing up on this hill was an amazing start to life. As with any "tribe" all of us were automatically accepted and respected, regardless of our skills, abilities, or functionality. It was a setting of unconditional acceptance and love.
As a cultural setting though, there were certain aspects and behaviors we were expected to carry out or comply with in daily interaction. All of us children were expected to follow the rituals of the hill, position ourselves in deference to our elders, and learn key words (jargon) of the Southern Italian dialect. This included many Italian words that described situations, or circumstances. We were expected to behave with respect, love, being kind, forgiving, recognizing our blessings and giving back to our family. These were all lessons from the "hill."
As I reflect now on these early years I am taken by the rules of the cultural settings that become important in community building. When a newcomer to a community begins to incorporate the expected rituals, behaviors, patterns and jargon of the setting they are attempting to enter, they become more easily assimilated. These are important lessons we can use when we are helping others become accepted in our communities.
So the next time you are in one of your regular settings, take a minute to consider the rituals, behaviors, patterns and jargon that you are aware of or use as a member. As simple as these things are, they become critical pieces of cultural acceptance.