Creating Community

I spend a lot of my free time working as the Coordinator for a small organic farm and nonprofit foundation. The farm is operated by five generations of women and men, not all from the same genetic family.

The Elder of the household is 92 years old. The youngest is just under five months. Together, these eight people have created a family community on the farm. Even though only two of them are actually related. And last Friday, the farm Elder had a stroke. Since then, everyone on the farm has taken turns sitting with her in the hospital. And when she woke up this morning, she found one of the young men from the farm sitting by her bed. She ate a few bites of applesauce, which exhausted her. The doctors are calling it a miracle that she can function at all.

She turned to the young man, and said "Thank you for being here." Then she closed her eyes and went back to sleep. So he stayed. Until someone else from the farm could come to the hospital to take his seat by her bed.

Hearing about that moment-- about a young man refusing to leave an old woman he's only known for a few months-- reminded me just how important it is for each of us to know we are not alone. That someone out there cares for our well-being, and would worry if we didn't make it home or didn't respond to their email or didn't show up for lunch on Thursday. It's good to enjoy your own company, to be comfortable in your own skin. To take time away from the bustle of the world and really get to know your own motivations, desires, and expectations.

But it is also good to wake up and know that someone cares whether you live or die. And there are so many ways to create a caring community for ourselves. We can volunteer and get to know the folks we're helping or working with. We can join some group activity like a painting class or yoga or even organize a monthly potluck with friends. We can visit the local Retirement Community or find a communal living arrangement of our own. And Big Brother/ Big Sister always needs volunteers. It's amazing how big a gift we get back whenever we give.

In the case of our farm Elder, she gave her farmhouse to a younger generation-- a nephew-- so that he and his wife could fix it up, farm the land, and fill the old homestead with a new created family. A family that cares enough to stay by her bedside while she sleeps, so that when she wakes up, she'll know she's not alone.

I want you to know the same thing-- You are not alone. You don't have to face life and life's challenges without support and care. And you should know that you aren't the only person going through the bumps in your particular road. There are support groups, counselors, and life coaches everywhere who can tell you the same thing-- Sometimes life is tough. Here are some of the things that might help you cope, even get you past this particular bump in the road... And you're not the first person to experience that particular challenge. I can't make it go away, but I can tell you this: You don't have to go through it alone, whatever it is. Really.