imageI’ve never had much community. But how does someone write about newfound community without becoming platitudinous? I’ve done pretty well on my own: golf was my sport, no team really needed; a quasi-only child, I entertained myself fairly well; professionally there was really no mentor, no PLC, no lounge to gather with other teachers even informally. I write; no one really needed there.

So here’s the neatest, simplest way of phrasing my realization: I haven’t needed community, but also, community hasn’t needed me.  Community doesn’t need someone to dwell on the fringe, quietly listening, absorbing and analyzing, someone who holds silent conversations with himself and idealized mental images of others in the group.

I sometimes think some unseen, nefarious force is dissuading me from integration: things so often seem to go wrong with community:

  • teachers wishing I’d stay out of their damn business when I’m just trying to help
  • someone I introduce myself to at church who, it turns out, I went to high school with
  • real estate deals that almost fall through because I was just making small talk

It truly can just be easier to stay on the fringe.

Part of it is that just when I start getting comfortable, things change, and I have to start all over again with the tedious process of proving I’m not just an ass. [Note to self: you can come off as an ass; remember that.]

ProjectSo I was skeptical at junior high graduation listening to Michael W. Smith singing “Friends Are Friends Forever.” I will make no statement, no prediction, about the future of this community. I hope it lasts, with the sincerest part of myself. But I’m also realistic.

There was one constant these past few weeks: the river has been flowing. But in the mornings, when the sun is reflecting off the water, the river’s true nature becomes more clear. Under the bridge the water flows, but there are places where the river actually turns back on itself: on the lee side of the bridge’s pillars the water is seemingly still, as if someone could just linger there in stopped time. I’ve wondered if the force of the water coming back would hold me there, pressing me against the pillar, or if some undertow would pull me under. But I like to think not. I like to think it is a place of rest, that the churning water finds a place to stop, if only for a moment.

That, in a sense, is where we’ve been the past four weeks: separated from the inexorable flow of life’s river, a metaphor as timeless as tired as the reality of it can be.

And now as we rejoin the flow, we become part of that river again, that river which we know is not monolithic, but varied and rocky and sadly, full of some really nasty shit.

However, we were able to linger here awhile, spending more time together than with our own families. I hope we will remember what we knew for this relatively short time. The saying goes, “If I knew then what I know now.” It should be, “If I know now what I knew then.” So remember: vulnerability is scary and good. Remember: try not to be an ass. Remember: community has its good side, that community can be supportive and encouraging and humbling and can mock the shit out of you in the most wonderful and loving way. Remember: I am a writer. Remember: write.

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