About Community...

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“On this shrunken globe, men can no longer live as strangers.” ~Adlai E. Stevenson
December 7 – Community
Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris) [The #reverb10 project.]
Transitioning from the naturally communal Kenyan environment to the every-man-for-himself mentality of the United States is a bitch. I know. I’ve done it. Most people think I have done it very well which is glaringly inaccurate. Everything is fine on the surface. One would have to get closer and look deeper to realize that I struggle with community here because it is nothing like community there.

The following excerpt hails from a rather autobiographical prior post titled ‘Origins’:


I was raised by my adopted parents, yes, but I was also raised by two distinctly different villages.

The first was the missionary village. It seemed to be an unwritten rule to collectively keep an eye on all the children. Subsequently, I have been disciplined by almost all of my missionary “aunts” and “uncles” just as my parents have done their share of parenting my friends. It was a system that worked and my missionary family was (and is) closer to me than most extended family here in the United States.

The second village in which I was raised was comprised of those who were hired to work at Brackenhurst, the conference center where I grew up, and their families. Considered to be the “staff quarters” by most, this was still an area that had all the elements of a traditional village: the wazee (elders) would sit and smoke and watch over the village, the women would cook in the open air and half the young children ran around naked while being minded by older siblings. As I have previously referred to this place as My Childhood Domain, it should come as no surprise that I spent much of my free time here… playing made up games with the children of this village or drinking chai and eating the ugali (cornmeal and water cooked until stiff) that was offered. They too were my extended family.


What I failed to mention in that post was that I also attended boarding school from seventh through twelfth grade (minus tenth when I was in the States). There are no words, unless you have experienced it, to describe the sense of community that comes from spending every moment of your day and night with your schoolmates; or, for that matter, how large that community gets when you meet this person or that person who also attended Rift Valley Academy. You may not have known each other on campus or attended ten… twenty… plenty more years apart from one another but that is of little concern.

I have yet to find anything here that carries with it even a smidgen of resemblance to those experiences. Am I seeking too much? Why is it so bloody difficult for people in Western cultures to connect with one another on a more than “Hi! How are you?” level?

The notable exception? You. (Cliché. Predictable. Whatever. Shaddup!)

If you are reading this than you are likely involved in social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) or blogging. It is you who has become my community. I think such connections are possible because, in essence, we are all here looking for each other. We want the same thing. That doesn’t mean we don’t have close connections in our unplugged lives but there is also nothing wrong with seeking out more. Like any community family we share our stories with one another. We discuss… sometimes heatedly, other times quite rationally… two sides of an argument. We laugh together and cry together. We protect one another and go to the mattresses for one another. Sometimes one of us disappears (for lack of a better word) for a few weeks or months or forever. Others notice. That person is sorely missed.

I stopped defending the relationships I have forged online a long, long time ago. I don’t feel the need. True community doesn’t need defending. And, who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be able to sit in a village in Kenya with a few of you… sharing stories, drinking chai and remote tweeting or blogging the experience.



6 comments:

  1. This is such a lovely post, I cannot pass it by without comment (as I often do, despite reading all that you write). I too went to boarding school, from the age of 6 1/2. I suppose that is where I learned to live on the furthest edge of the community, wandering alone in the ploughed fields while the others played football, or dreamily forgetting I was a fielder on the cricket field, supposed to be on tiptoe to catch the ball at any moment.

    You and I also have in common that blogging is important to us. Apart from a new post today, I've been silent for weeks, and yet I've mentally composed things every day. Blogging is magic and mystery, because there is no other publishing company in the world that offers such a wide reach, without any formalities to go through.

    It's a community and a conversation, and a wonderful artistic challenge, and somehow an entry into a great lottery of friendship and inspiration, a magical lottery where you can win every time.

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  2. Re: factoids (sorry, can't comment there), #36 is now Cabin Attendant and the most senior one is called the "In Charge".

    P.S. You rock.

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  3. I am so thankful for online communities. I have been at home for the past two years caring for a suicidal teenager and these communities have given me a chance to connect with others in similar situations. It is amazing how much support and caring can be found in so many different places. Thanks for letting me be a part of your community. Many times your writing has been just what I needed to get through tough times.

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  4. @Vincent ~ You have been a part of my online community from the first days of this blog... and I treasure your visits.

    @Brad ~ Thanks! You're pretty awesome yourself. P.S. The links for the original "random" posts are at the bottom of that page. Comments are enabled on those. :)

    @Darryn ~ I still don't know how you found me but I'm glad that you did. Thank you for sharing something so personal and for allowing me to be there for you.

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  5. I really loved your blog ... I found it thru twitter looking at all the other reverb posts... I love my community of bloggers... I also stopped defending my online relationships because sometimes they prove to be more reliable than the ones that are not.

    Beautiful post. :)

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  6. @J ~ Welcome and thank you. I have Reverb10 to thank for bringing a lot of new people my way and it's a joy. ;)

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"Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?" ~Walt Whitman

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