Community or Why I Love It Here

I shared a few thoughts a week or so ago about community and promised that if Susan Chernak McElroy gave me permission to reprint her comments from her last newsletter that I would. And so she did! Like I said before, she and I share many similarities and I couldn’t say it any better. Her commentary and experiences are like a reflection in a mirror–only I am a little younger, I already lost my dog, and the man is local.

I have lived in this particular valley now for about three years. The first year, I spent settling in, moving away and back, and then settling in all over again. More hermit than I sometimes acknowledge, it took me a long time to begin seeking friends and making connections here.

Because I work mostly out of my home, and writing can be a solitary business, it is easy for me to stay on the fringes of any community. Most of my life, I’ve needed a lot more alone time than many people I know, and I guess I picked the perfect livelihood for it!

This past year, I began making a concerted effort to find my way into this town and its people. In my fifties now, I am feeling a strong and near urgent need for community I haven’t felt so deeply before. Perhaps it is because of my growing appreciation for what nature shows me about community, reminding me that no one survives and thrives without it.

The wisdom of wild community has been pulling at me. This is the year I started “joining” things: my homeowner’s association, the local church, a book study group, Each step out of my cocoon has been nothing short of a revelation and a wisdom-teaching about the ins and outs of belonging someplace and somehow.

A week or so ago, my cherished sweetie Jack, whom I met on (no kidding!) was talking to me about community. He’s lived in his Montana town for 17 years now, growing his two boys, serving on Rotary. I’ve never walked one block with him in his town without people calling out, “Hey Jack!” from their cars or front porches. He said to me, while I was trying to tell him how much my community means to me, “A community is more than a few friends and an organization.” His words stayed with me.

He says a lot of things that start me to pondering. I found myself asking, “Then, what is community? Would I even know ‘community’ if it smacked me along side the head? Am I—a loner of sorts—even capable of finding or contributing to community? Is community a matter of time in a place, or the ‘right’ mix of people?”

This last week, I had a crisis at home. It was the kind that makes you hurt from the inside out, and rockets your breath up to the top of your throat. Family stuff. Old business coming back again and again. In some form or another, I’m sure you’ve been there. At the rope’s end of my ability to go through it alone, I started reaching out to the small bits and pieces of community I have managed to craft so far. And in the reaching, I learned something necessary and important:

Community does not have to be large and extensive to be deep. Between my new-found friends and my church, and a call to a member of the community association, I was held up on my feet, nourished, and given hope and help. It was a face-to-face replica of the support I got by telling all of you about Strongheart (her dog)last month, and by the end of the week, I felt both humbled and graced by my new community here, and by the extended community I am part of through emails and phone calls.

Nature shows me that it doesn’t take much to find community. Community is such a vital part of the living world that it reaches out for us with open arms if we so much as extend a well-intended finger. And I am so very grateful for all those who have reached out past my tentative fingers, and grabbed me by the hand.”

All I can say is that this could be me writing about Fawnskin and my comment to her final statement is, “me too!”

Be sure to take a gander at Susan’s website.

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