I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the “community”.
Growing up, we belonged to the Catholic Church, after we moved into town when I was 4. The Church was a prominent fixture in my life. I went to church weekly. I played soccer and basketball for the Church in the CYO. I referred my first games there. I went to CCD for what felt like decades on Sundays. I made friends there. My parents coached, my brother was an alter server (I grew up before girls could be alter servers). My mom served on committees, my dad was a Eucharistic Minister. We were really involved, and we made friends through our activities. I was friends with the priests (even wrote them in college for a bit, and yes, they were absolutely on the up and up good men!)
We had other communities, too. I knew all the families on my street, and they knew me. We played together, their parents knew my parents, and everyone looked out for one another. My parents knew my classmates and their parents over the years, too. There were small and large niches for us to belong to, and we did, but as a family, the one I remember is the Church.
We belong to the Church here. My girls go to the school because of the education. But here’s the thing, I don’t feel like I’m involved or in a community here. We’re finally (2 years after moving into the house we’re in now, but 9+ years in our town) making friends with the neighbors, and they are delightful people. But – as a family, probably the closest thing to community is my husband’s gym. The girls are known there and participate, and so does he. (I can’t make it work, and right now, I’d rather run).
Here’s why I’ve been thinking about this:
A woman I knew from years ago is in the fight of her life. I promise you, that’s not hyperbole. I played soccer and basketball with her sisters. My brother was her year, and they knew each other. My dad coached most if not all the older kids at some point, I think. We had (have) family friends in common. Over the years, we’d lost contact with them, but would get updates here and there.
And then a few years ago, it came to light of her struggle. And true to form, the community that “was” 20 years ago, rallied to her cause. During the last two years’ runs, my mom and dad have caught up with all kinds of families. Of course, it was a no-brainer that these families all came to her aid as we could. They walked the walk, ran the run. Caught up, prayed for her.
And – I think (selfishly), in 20 years, what community would I have built for my girls? If something goes drastically wrong, what old community will be there? Their school? Maybe. The church, unlikely (although I think Father Erik is doing what he can) unless major changes are made. The neighborhood? Maybe, the two-three families that we talk to?
I think back to the Church and the community that was there. My mom and her committees, my dad and his activities… Good people, that we’d see at Church and make sure we left them their pew as we could. I can’t imagine how my parents had the time and energy to invest in that community. I get home from work, and I’m with my kids so they see their mom before they go to bed. I try to pay attention to my husband after that (or chores, or whatever). Where did they find time for committees, coaching, and so forth? How did we fit so effortlessly into those communities? How did those communities get built and stay strong for so long?
Is it because we had a community to walk into? The Church accepted us after our move and welcomed what we had to give. It also had niches for young families. I have no idea if our Church has that niche. I’ve seen no evidence, and have no idea how. I can’t figure out how to build the neighborhood community. I’m open to the work of building or participating, but honestly I don’t know how. I don’t know what’s there to help grow. And I don’t know how to ask these question and who to ask…
This blog post sort of took on a winding quality I’m not sure I like, but I’m being a bit vulnerable too. If you’ve constructive ideas, I’m open. They needn’t be church based, I’m just using that example. How do we go about building the communities that give our children a sense of community? What does it take?