Category Archives: Community

How do you do Community?

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Community is the glue that keeps our society together. I’ve been blessed in my life to have been a part of a variety of different communities. These experiences with community have shaped me. They have inspired me. They have taught me so very much. They have most certainly been a source of joy.

Like the community of church folks who came together back in Wisconsin a few years ago to fix up a single mom’s beautiful old house to get it ready to be sold. This was a days long process involving probably 24 of us. We painted. We put up curtains. Some of us did some electrical work and plumbing. While working on these tasks, we also got to know each other better. We ended with a shared experience that benefited not just the single mom and her kids, but all of us.

Like the community of friends, many of whom hadn’t officially met before, who came together to make a home accessible for a friend’s spouse who in her 30’s suffered a stroke while vacationing out of the country and was soon coming out of rehab. We organized closets, we built an accessible ramp, we updated the bathroom and re-arranged the bedroom to accommodate the spouse’s new way of moving through their day to day world.

Like the community at our local brew pub, 3 miles down the road from our townhome here in Colorado. If ever there was a “Cheers”  in real life, this would be that place. The owners and bartenders know our names. The owners regularly schedule events that build community.

And this sign is prominently featured, which I very much appreciate. This one hangs in the ladies’ restroom.

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Then there’s our current church community. Our major fundraiser each year is a lawn mower clinic, held in May. Hubs and I, along with probably 2-3 dozen other church folks came together on three Saturdays this past May to check the oil, change spark plugs, and clean those well used, clunky machines up so they would be in good working condition for their owners when the time came to get back to mowing their lawns again. Each of these Saturdays were nasty, weather-wise. Snow. Rain. Cloudy, cold, and breezy. From my perspective, only experiencing 2 years in Colorado, this weather was a-typical for the time of year. But yet we all bundled up, drank a lot of hot coffee, and got things done as a community.

The Facebook blogging community I’ve recently become a part of is another example of how I like to “do” community in my life. In this group, bloggers often lift each other up. They turn each other on to new ideas, new tricks to improve their writing and their blogs. They  We support each other as best we can. We seem to understand that while we all have our individual blogs, we’re in it (aka the Blogosphere) together. We all want to succeed at what we’re doing and we all love to write. We respect each other. There does not seem to be a sense of “my blog vs. your blog” competitive b.s. going on in this group. We all seem to engage with this group in an effort to build each other, and ourselves at the same time, up. I’m so glad I decided to join this community.

The bottom line, for me, is that being around others, especially with a clear goal in mind, energizes me. It appeals to my social and socially conscious nature. It opens up my world, teaches me things I didn’t know I needed to learn, both about myself and others. It helps me focus on the positive and reminds me that there is good in the world. That the number of good people in our universe far outweighs the number of bad people. It gives me hope.

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When I grow up

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I’ve gotten to know a lot of people since moving to Colorado with Hubs almost 2 years ago. I’m appreciative of this. I’m especially appreciative of the older women I have come to know, as they inspire me to strive for graceful, healthy aging. Like the women I volunteer with each week at the food bank. Or the women with whom we attend church.  And the women I work with along with the female senior citizens I serve in my job.

These women I’ve come to know don’t seem to let their age impede them in any significant way. They generally seem to take life in stride and their feathers are not easily ruffled. They have a strong sense of self  and understand they still have the ability to help and inspire others. Their ages do not define them, which I believe is how it should be. They embrace the lives they have and do not wallow in the physical or mental changes that aging has foisted upon them.

One 80 year old lady I know gives me the impression that who she is now is who she’s always been. She is open-minded, witty, and her fingers and toes are always immaculately manicured.  She once expressed a combination of confusion and frustration when a client referred to her as “cute”. She recognized this was an ageist statement and rightly took offense to it. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Another older woman I know is exceptionally loving and caring. She never had children, by choice, which makes her a rare bird in her generation. However, that doesn’t prevent her from looking out for people younger and less wise than she, as she has the ability to embrace and appreciate one and all. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Another female senior I know is a fun loving social butterfly.  She readily strikes up conversations with anyone and peppers them with “dear” or “dear-heart”. She is a snappy dresser and tells great stories about her life as a wife to a Vietnam vet and mother to her now grown children. She recently visited Disneyland with friends and their teenage granddaughter and shared stories about how she and the teen rode almost every single ride together in the park. What other almost 80 year old woman do you know who does that? I want to be like her when I grow up.

Another woman I’ve come to know here is savvy and smart. She takes no shit from anyone. You know where you stand with her. She is not a word-mincer, which is a quality I sort of envy. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Yet another lady I’ve gotten to know, at our church, is adventurous. She travels frequently with girlfriends she has had since she was in college in the 60’s. She is big-hearted and a great listener. She happily donates her time and money to causes she believes in, but she is never showy about it. One time at church, I asked for prayers for someone I love very much who was experiencing a lot of struggles in a personal relationship. This wonderful lady called me a couple of weeks later to check in and see if things had improved with my loved one. I also want to be like her when I grow up.

Then there are the two retired women, who I believe are sisters, who come into our food bank at work about every other week and donate several bags of just purchased food. They look over the shelves and ask me questions about the types of foods our seniors seem to especially enjoy, so they know what to buy at the grocery store the next time. They do this out of the sheer goodness of their hearts. I want to be like them too when I grow up.

I also have a food bank client with bright blue eyes that do not betray her age. This lovely lady once struck up a conversation with me about cooking, which is a common occurrence when running a food bank, and promised to one day bring me her recipe for pork green chili (a Colorado staple). Lo and behold, a couple of months later, she gifted me with her handwritten recipe for this tasty dish. I think I want to be like her when I grow up too.

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Not so sure about buying that lard, though!

The thing is, we are all aging. Day by day. There’s nothing besides death of course, that is going to stop this process. I think that we all have the ability to choose how we are going to age. Some older women are preoccupied by their health problems, or the health problems of others, and seem to be stuck in a never-ending loop of worrying what illness will strike next. This negatively impacts their relationships and their quality of life.

However, these dynamic, older, and wiser women of Colorado that I’ve been fortunate to come to know give me hope and inspiration for my future as a female senior citizen.

Partake

The following message is brought to you by the word prompt for today: Partake.

I used to be an English major. I chose that as my major because at the time, it was the only major that held any interest for me. It was borne out of a love of words, of stories, of creative expression. I’d been engaged in personal creative writing all my life, in one form or another. From writing skits I thought one day I could submit to the writing staff at SNL, to writing song lyrics about my romantic teenage yearnings, to rushing home after school  to hole up in my room to write a personal essay for my AP English class or my next Forensics competition.

Now obviously I didn’t stick with being an English major. If I had, I think most likely I’d be an underpaid, overworked high school English teacher right now. To be perfectly honest, I’d probably have tremendously enjoyed partaking in this career path. Maybe in my next life.

Instead, I chose to partake in the social work field. It felt right, like possibly my calling. In a nutshell, I was a problem solver. Clients presented to me their sticky, painful, complicated, unique circumstances and I did what I could (following many guidelines provided by my employer) to provide solutions to make their lives work better for them. It was emotionally and mentally challenging. It was stressful much of the time. And it was also very rewarding, not most of the time mind you, but enough of the time to lead me to stick with it for as long as I did. 

At my current stage in life, which I would loosely describe as pre-pre-retirement, I find myself partaking in different experiences.  Such as regular volunteering at a food bank, working as a program assistant at a non profit senior citizen resource and referral center which also includes a food bank. Hubs and I partake in a variety of tasks with our church community, like the yearly spring lawnmower clinic fundraiser that occurred the past three Saturday mornings. We together also enjoy partaking in sampling craft beers in local brew pubs. We especially enjoy the sense of community we experience while partaking in each of these activities. That is surely the reason for all this partaking we do: for the love of community.