I thought that community was formed by a property line, a zip code, a curriculum, a job, a cause, a common interest, or a religion. And while those are broad versions of community--in themselves, they were not the kind of community I'd heard about from the pulpit, the kind of community my heart craved--a place and people of welcome, safety, love and inclusion.
I spent the spring months of this year preparing my mind and home for a next (now) school year. I read lots of great books and articles that inspired me. So much of that has shaped our school year this year. There was one book I had seen frequently recommended, and so I checked it out from the library. It was a book written by an award-winning public school teacher. I never expected that that book would bring about such clarity and healing.
"The real truth is that the 'friends' falsely mourned for their indifference were never friends, just fellow networkers from whom in fairness little should be expected beyond the attention to the common interest." (p 54, Dumbing Us Down, John Taylor Gatto)
"Communities are collections of families and friends who find major meaning in extending the family association to a band of honorary brothers and sisters. They are complex relationships of commonality and obligation that generalize to others beyond the perimeter of the homestead. When the integration of life that comes from being part of a family in a community is unattainable, the only alternative, apart from accepting a life in isolation, is to search for an artificial integration into one of the many expressions of network currently available. But it's a bad trade! Artificial integration within the realm of human association--think of those college dorms or fraternities--appears strong but it is actually quite weak; seems close-knit but in reality has only loose bonds; suggests durability but is usually transient. And it is most often badly adjusted to what people need although it masquerades as being exactly what they need." (p 66, Dumbing Us Down, Gatto)
Just like I lived 40+ years before trying a pomegranate (until this year), I walked this planet with a false hope and false beliefs of community. Now I get it. No matter how beautiful the neighborhood or how small/big the church or how comprehensive the curriculum or how long you've been on the job or how noble the cause, the essence of true (pulpit) community comes from one place--the heart.
This year's word community gave me lots to think on.
There were places and people I hoped in, who really were only paying attention to the common interest or joined by a common ground. In light of this new definition, I have new peace. The people in and with whom I found real community, it was through the heart.
I am thankful for all the people in my life who handled my heart (and my family) with tender, loving care. You were the ones who cheered us on from the sidelines during Lanie's diagnosis, a hectic school year, and a new path. You were also the ones who prayed for us and over us, gave us food for the pantry, and were present when the walk felt lonely. And it goes back further than this year. Solid, authentic friendships. Thank you.
Community means a lot to me. It always has. I was just looking for it in the wrong places. I should have started with the heart.