Sarah Flores and “Third Places”

by | Mar 23, 2021 | Principles, The Good Neighbor Experience

Sarah FloresBefore reading Joelle’s posts about third places, I was unfamiliar with that concept. Now that I think about ways I might have experienced third places in my life, I remember mostly spending time in bookstores and the occasional coffee shop. Otherwise, everything I needed to do could be done at home. If I wanted to spend time with my friends, I would invite them to my house. If I wanted to do homework, I’d do it in my room; I didn’t think there was a need for other places as long as I had my home. Now, after my years at Baylor–away from home–and my next moves after graduation,  my reading and reflecting on Joelle’s blog post has inspired me to focus on the significance of third places for my future, when I won’t have the built-in sense of community we might experience as a college student. 

For me, I’m realizing that if I value community-building and relationship-building, the idea of third places helps me accomplish these. Focusing on identifying and using third places can help me encourage and / or invite others to join me for various reasons. And as I move on to my next “neighborhood” I can look for third places. 

I’m also realizing that for my generation / peers, we have used online spaces as third places. Apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat all seem to act as third places, where people spend their time to foster relationships with others. Even though there are definitely pros to building relationships online, there are cons as well: without sharing the same physical space with someone, it can be difficult to “connect” with them as fully as we might in person. Not only that, but when we use digital social media in place of a physical third place, we are too often still at home or work, diminishing the concept of a third place. 

I recognize now that in order to benefit most from the concept of third places, I must be physically present with a willing attitude to meet and engage with others. And Good Neighbor is an example of what I can look for in the future. It is a space that enables meetings of many different groups, from Bible studies, to book clubs, to dance groups, to music groups, to support groups, to LGBTQ+ groups. These groups are diverse, in good ways, and the Good Neighbor House enables each group (and others as diverse) to build community and relationships in their own ways, and in doing that, enabling all participants to practice being part of a larger community and perhaps recognizing the value of “third places” such as the Good Neighbor House.

As I think about the next communities I will be joining, I’m going to be more conscious of seeking third places. Whether I use a coffee shop, a bookstore, or a community space like Good Neighbor, I believe my overall wholeness and wellness will benefit.