Monday, May 10, 2010

The Critical Importance of Community

Two weeks ago, I traveled to Tennessee to support my older son as he competed in a Pentathlon. Trying to make the trip affordable (and doable), I invited another mother from my son's 5th grade class to ride along with me and my 6 year old. I figured that she would be able to hand him the apple I brought when he wanted a snack when I was driving or watch him when I went into the bathroom. We could get to know each other and I would have some company on the 12 hour drive. I didn't expect the level of support that I received, so it got me thinking again about the topic of community and support.

What is community? Perhaps community is the idea that we are not alone in all of this, especially parenting.  We're designed to be in relationship, to reach out to one another, and to work together.  I often think, somewhat longingly, to the idealized villages where everyone works together, where chores are done in community, and it is not a world where each family is alone with one person doing most of the work of organizing the family.  (Of course, the reality of that world is that they need to do those things to survive... but it is something to consider.  How can we bring that kind of community and support into our lives here and now?)


What does it mean to support one another? The realization that I was experiencing support struck me when I realized that she had exceeded my expectations. So what were my unconscious expectations? As I reflected on this questions, I realized that support, to me, means that you're not physically alone. There are other people nearby, perhaps sharing expenses or helping out when asked. But I didn't realize I don't expect others to just jump in- to see what needs to be done and do it with a kind, loving heart.  It was quite an eye-opening moment for me!

I think most of us have challenges with asking for help. We've learned since early childhood that we're supposed to do by ourselves. Most of us haven't had the idea of community modeled for us, like my friend clearly had. How do we create that which we didn't know even existed?

I think it takes having experiences where we feel what it is like. We need to find those people in our lives who can bring this into our awareness so that we can even know (and feel) the possibilities. When I give homework in my on-line classes, asking parents to ask someone else for help with the children or household tasks- since we all need a community- most people come back the next week only having given it a little thought, without taking action. When I ask them to do something nice for another family, they usually manage to do it. We've learned since early childhood that we need to please others, without taking care of ourselves or asking for what we need.

So when my friend volunteered to get up and take my son to breakfast so that I could sleep after the long drive, I was blown away. She played with him, named his feet (Blah Blah is his right foot and Blah Blito is his left foot), and created an adorable caped man with her finger and a paper towel in the car. I watched her pour in the energy she had on reserve into my child the way I used to do when I was a nanny or babysitting for other people's children.

We all need people like that in our lives. Thanks for the reminder, Patricia!

What are your experiences creating community?  Have you had experiences where someone went over and above your expectations?  I'd love to hear about it!

(And if you're looking for an opportunity to experience what it is like to be supported by other like-minded parents, don't miss our retreat coming this fall on the Carnival Inspiration, sailing out of Tampa, FL Sept 30!)

1 comment:

petrifiedstringcheese said...

great article Rebecca. :) <3 My experiences are asking for help, and maybe getting it once. But having to continually ask and ask if I need more than one thing. BEGGING for community, and no one is interested. Inviting an open group to the park and no one shows up. I'm not sure why. Its too much of a personal investment maybe. Maybe it's me? People are too busy for relationships with me. (And by "relationship," I mean talking more often than once a month.) So my solution? Happily embrace it. This is life. It's ok. I have my immediete family. And that will have to be enough. Maybe someday... :D