Hull: What makes a community?
What would happen if you turned and stopped, looked into the person’s face and waited for an answer to your question? Unfortunately, they never stopped walking either as they politely responded. Hey, I am just as guilty of this behavior as everyone else, but my need for community and fellowship has made me take another look at the world around me.
Until recently, I was privileged to grow up and raise my family in the same town for 54 years. To a certain extent, that naturally gives you the opportunity to build friendships and community. Most of us had/have friendships from the schools, churches or neighborhoods that we grew up in. Even if you moved around a lot, you probably still built some bonds along the way. I have a friend who has a group of friends that continue to get together several times a year, now with their families, no matter where they currently live. Those ties that we form are sometimes much stronger than the family that you were given or born into. Friendships are choices and not obligations.
As we venture out into the job market, we have yet another chance to form special relationships with these people who we probably spend more time with than our own family. We come to work and share the ups and downs in our lives with our work buddies. They cheer for us when something awesome happens — an engagement, a wedding, a baby and, if they are good friends, they even celebrate our promotions. We even bare our souls with the burdens and sorrows of breakups, divorces and pink slips, hoping that they will lend a shoulder and comforting words. Often times, these relationships fade as we move through life’s journey.
When we begin our families, we usually form some close friendships with the parents of our children. Beginning with school plays, concerts or sports, we are bound to spend a great deal of time with these crazy people who are cheering and yelling victoriously for their future prodigy. We let all of our defenses down when we are acting without reservation in support of our kids. It is such an amazing experience to be right in the moment of such pure joy and celebration when someone you love is succeeding at something they are passionate about. I once said that I would like to write a sitcom titled “The Bleachers,” but it could probably be labeled as a drama as well. Lots of crazy parents for sure! Most of us learn some degree of self-control for the sake of our children and our friends sitting next to us on the “bleachers.” I have only been asked to leave a baseball field once in my life. … I suppose that I was a bit over exuberant! What was that umpire actually thinking anyway?
Well, as I mentioned in my first article, I am new to Dickinson, so how do I build friends and community here? I am lucky to have some amazing friends, in Phoenix, who email, text and call me all the time, but they aren’t here. Who do I go to coffee with? Who will sit with me at church?
When I am sad, who will hold me while I cry? Yes, I have a husband, but he is working endless hours … thankfully. I am not glad that he is working so much, but we are happy with the income and self-worth that his job provides. In addition to providing for us, it has allowed us to help our daughter and grandkids, who need some extra financial support right now. So who am I? Am I from Dickinson or Phoenix? Sometimes I am cautious who I tell where I am from. Well, I guess the cat’s out of the bag. We often judge people by whether they are a native or a transplant. This is just one of the many barriers which can keep us lonely and separated from our future friends. Some of the other walls to get over or around are socio-economic, religious, political, race, gender and age.
We can go into more depth on these another time as we continue to get to know each other. I went to a networking group one time and the facilitator of the group asked us to stand up and tell us who we are. One by one, people stood up and described themselves as a nurse, insurance salesperson, teacher, etc. He asked us to stand up again and tell us who we are and not what we do for a living. Wow, that is tougher to do than you might think.
Let me end by telling you a little about who I am. I am a fiercely protective and loving wife, mother and friend. In addition, I also have many insecurities which push me to work extra hard to prove that I am competent and valued. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a term that my kids will certainly describe me as having. Just because I hang all the clothes up facing the same direction with sleeveless, then short sleeve and finally long-sleeve shirts, all in order, is no reason to give me such a title! There is also a proper way to load the dishwasher and, of course, sorting the clothes in the wash is a given. I like my hair to be fluffy and blonde and carry many different types of lipstick. Now don’t stereotype me as I tell people that I have real intelligence and artificial hair color. I am not “blonde” brained. No offense to the blondes, of course. I love blondes!
So the next time you meet a fluffy blonde who is asking you all kinds of questions about who you are, it might just be me.
Hull is a wife, mother and motivational speaker and writer who, like many others, recently moved to Dickinson because of the energy industry. She writes a recurring column for Our Town and blogs at bloomwhereyouareplanted.areavoices.com.