Perhaps it was childhood memories of the choir's voice lifted in beautific song, while we- the congregation- joined in. It could also have been the sense of safety, the way I felt protected holding hands while we recited the Our Father. There's no way to pinpoint exactly what instilled a lifelong love of community in me, but I do think my earliest experiences at our church deeply shaped my values. Though I am no longer religious in the traditional sense, I know that connection is what makes my life meaningful.
When I became a mother, I sought community with like minded young women struggling though sleepless nights, the challenges of breastfeeding, and all the demands of caring for an infant. Later, I worked shifts at the co-op where my son attended preschool. When he was four, we moved countries and I gave birth to another son. My daughter arrived two years later. By then I had fallen in love with Waldorf education and became involved with our local kindergarten. It is parent-run. Somehow I became secretary.
Time and again I have embraced community through a variety of initiatives: volunteering to work at our local primary school's allotment garden, attending PTA meetings and fundraisers, acting as treasurer for my town's public toddler group. I've been a full-time mom for nearly 16 years, which means that most of my adult life has been dedicated to my children. Through them I have met incredible people. Being closely involved with other families has meant there is always someone to share a meal with, a laugh, and a good deal of tears too.
These days I've broadened my community to include people I've never met in person. Three years ago I co-authored my first blog with a friend. A year later I branched out on my own. Now I'm venturing into a new blog and hope to create yet another community here at Gathering.
My love of writing has also extended into my work community. I'm part of a large network of instructors worldwide. While I meet regularly with national instructors at events, we also have the opportunity to connect with each other online in our private network. Recently I was approved for the position of district blogger in my country. I signed a contract for 2014 and have agreed to write posts with the sole purpose of building community. It's voluntary. The only perk is that our community will hopefully be stronger.
What does community mean to me? Why is it worth the effort? I value the sense of belonging, of knowing I have a place. I never feel completely alone. There is always someone I can ask for help, which is comforting. Offering support to others is equally satisfying. There are moments when each of us is vulnerable; it's during those times that I am most grateful to have good people surrounding me. When we pull together, life is much easier. Whether in my "real" or virtual world, there is so much inspiration that I gain from others. It makes me feel profoundly blessed.
In 2014, how could you explore what community means to you?
This post is part of Reverb 13. To learn more about this storytelling project click here.