the nest

the nest

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Community

I've been trying to write since January 1.
It seems like a good day to post. I read several great blogs and editorials about resolutions, not making resolutions, hope for the future, despair for the future. There is always a plethora of posts about being healthy in the new year. Getting organized in the new year. Posts about depression. Posts about the election and upcoming inauguration... I couldn't hear my voice in the cacophony.

Since January 1st, one theme has popped out at me from a variety of places - the internet, books, friends, church - our need for community.

My son shared a NYT article on FB called  "How Social Isolation is Killing Us". It talks about how social isolation is as bad for our health and longevity as obesity and other health risks. He shared another research article a while back that looked at rats who were given the choice of plain water and water with cocaine. The hypothesis was that they would become addicted to the cocaine water. The rats were in two environments however, one with no "friends" and no stimulation and one with other rats and an interesting, rich environment to explore. Those living in a "community" did not become addicted to the cocaine water. More and more we are seeing that social connection is protective against addiction and other illnesses. I'm also currently reading "A Man Called Ove." For those of you who haven't read it, it's about a grumpy old man who's wife has passed away and he just wants to kill himself. There's more to it than that, but I'm only a few chapters in. Suffice it to say that the "community" keeps interrupting his plans.

Earlier this month two things impacted my "village" that continued to make me think about "community."

My middle child was driving with a friend from CT to IA to return to school. Not an easy drive when weather is precarious. I remembered that one of my dear friends from H.S. in Minnesota, lives about 3 minutes off I-80 in Ohio. I connected with her through the magic of Facebook, got her contact info to Katy and so she and her friend Diana had a warm, welcoming place to take a break after driving through lake effect snow. She welcomed them with drinks, sandwiches, hugs and a clean bathroom. That night my husband and I marveled at how amazing it is to have the "nationwide" community that we have. We or our children could go almost anywhere in the country and we would be able to connect with someone from our past or present. Someone in our "village."

Wednesday we got word that a long time church family friend had passed away. She was entirely too young at just 66, but we knew she had been ill for some time. While it was so sad, it was not unexpected. Over the next few days I found myself remembering Sue snuggling my children as babies. I remembered Christmas parties in her beautiful Victorian home that she and her husband lovingly restored. I remember knowing that she was one of those surrogate "aunties" for my children who's extended family was far away. She loved them, laughed at them and indulged them.

Sunday morning I walked into church and saw these people who I love. My community. I struggled all morning not to cry as every time I opened my mouth to speak or sing, I felt overwhelmed with love for them and sadness for us all at the passing of our friend. The sermon was about how we each have gifts to contribute to the community. The COMMUNITY.

I am so blessed to be a part of a wide range of "villages" and I treasure them all. I am more determined than ever to infuse my work and life with opportunities to give to my communities, to build communities for others to be a part of and to be watchful of those who don't seem to have their own. On the other side, we also have to be thoughtful about our communities and cannot allow ourselves to just blindly follow the direction our community is going. We all must participate and speak up.

When I think about what is most distressing to me about the current political climate, it is the division that is being stirred up. The President-elect and those he is choosing to surround himself with seem more focused than ever on dividing us through fear rather than uniting us through compassion and caring. Their focus seems to be destroying some of the very safety nets that define us as a national community - Repealing the current healthcare plan without a replacement will pull the net out from under millions of people who will lose their healthcare. This is just one example. More educated people than I have written about the ways that 2017 could destroy the progress we've made towards inclusiveness and equality for all.

A new community is rising that is not worthy of our support. You could call the KKK a community. Jonestown was a community. Charles Manson's "family" was a community. We must be vigilant that the communities we are a part of are working for the good of all. When communities rise around a demagogue or a theme of divisiveness and hate, there is something wrong. Some suggest that we must "come together" as a community to support the incoming administration. I would suggest that we must stand together against the "community" that is rising around the racism, misogyny, xenophobia and generalized hate and selfishness of our incoming president and his administration.

The communities I am a part of will stand up to care for, nurture, guide and support those who would fall. Next Saturday I will join a community of hundred's of thousands around the world, coming together to speak out and stand up for what is right. Some would say we are sore losers. Some would say we need to get over it and move on.

I would say we will never get over it. We will NEVER stop working for what is right. We will NEVER accept the lies and deception. We will rise as a community to create a world where all are valued, all are welcome, all are loved.