Posts Tagged ‘gift’

On Community

Monday, February 1st, 2010

As a community development professional, I have spent many many hours contemplating the nature of community and the role that community plays in how we live our lives. Is community a place-based phenomenon? A geographic construct centered around the street, neighborhood or places we inhabit on a daily basis? Or, is community fundamentally people-based, defined by the people we choose to include in our lives, or with whom we interact everyday? In graduate school, we spent weeks delving into these ideas, hashing them out with passion (actually, a particular form of gusto peculiar to academically-trained critical theorists), and trying to determine what impact our answers might have on public policy. Professionally, I make suggestions and write policy all the time to inform cities and neighborhoods about how to best activate, engage or improve their communities. On some level, I sound like I know what I’m talking about.

However, in reality, I’m no closer to a definitive answer about the true nature of community then I was back in the day. Rather, the true nature of community remains compelling and its ultimate definition, elusive. I think it’s fascinating.

So, Dan and I started this blog for a number of reasons, and we look forward to seeing what role, if any, this blog may play in engaging/building our community. Here is a starting list:

1. It will be a centralized location for photos, videos and general communication about our family. (To be honest, most people don’t care so much about us, but want to see pics of Ryan. We’re cool with that).

2. It’s hard to keep track of everyone’s emails and inevitably we miss someone when we send out general announcements. Hopefully, the blog will help with this.

3. We feel like we need to participate in the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon. (For those of you who’d like to know what the heck “Web 2.0” is, you can find out more here.)

4. Dan likes to design things, so this will be another creative venue for him. (The design of the blog will improve. This is a  hideous temporary template.)

5. We are excited to encourage our friends and family to comment and participate! The downside of living so far away from so many of our nearest and dearest is that our interactions are often isolated, news is relayed second hand and so forth.

6. We look forward to sharing ours news and adventures! And pics of the kid, of course…

Anyway, back to my original musings… The experience of pregnancy and birth have brought my thinking about community to the foreground. Dan and I have been astounded by the support we have received in recent months. Friends, family and virtual strangers have offered to help us with everything from house projects to babysitting. Delicious and nutritious meals, baby gear, parenting advice, commiseration, cheerleading… these are only a few of the ways that we have been supported by our community. We have been surprised by these gifts and comforted in knowing that we are not alone. It has been a truly illuminating experience for us.

Here’s an example that left us both speechless and truly grateful:

Some of you may know that a couple of years ago I started attending St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Oakland. I don’t really know why, but it seemed like a good thing to do. I don’t think of myself as a churchy person and I have a hunch that a detailed inventory of my beliefs would leave many wondering why I even bother to get out of bed on Sunday mornings. However, I do manage to attend on a regular basis and I’ve enjoyed getting involved in the church’s community service efforts, meeting other parishioners and reacquainting myself with Episcopalianism generally. Anyway, throughout my pregnancy, I received so much support and encouragement from the St. Paul’s community – so many people expressed excitement for me! When we finally had Ryan, a friend at church organized a food brigade to bring us an amazing array of foods to help sustain us through the early weeks with Ryan. We were both truly grateful for all of their generosity and support. But then, I received an email from Paula, an acquaintance I have encountered only rarely at committee meetings and over coffee. She informed me that she had designed and sewed a one-of-a-kind quilt just for Ryan! It’s amazing and left us both utterly speechless.

Check it out:

Paula was so excited to make it – a detail that has made the quilt that much more exciting for us. She said that she bought the fabric years ago and was waiting for just the right little girl to come along, so that she could make it.  How cool is that? It’s been another reminder for us that our community will manifest itself in a variety of ways that we may not ever expect.

So on that note, I’ll close. Welcome to our blog! We hope you  enjoy it and visit often. Please comment and let us know your thoughts.  We are so happy and thankful that you are a part of our ever-evolving community!

~ Susan