alone, community, feeling alone, good, goodness, life, togetherness

Never Alone

Inexplicable sadness. Despair. Tearful. Useless. Joyless. Pained. Unmotivated. Meaningless. Hopeless. Alone.

We have all felt this way at one time or another.

Some of us have felt stuck in a rut, in an impasse, or just plain buried.

This week, we lost Kate Spade, 55, to suicide. We also lost Anthony Bourdain, 61, to suicide. A classmate committed suicide, while in college. I knew of a teenage twin who committed suicide. My hygienist’s son lost a roommate to suicide. And, there are many more stories told and untold.

PurpleFlower2018June3SMALL
Lily Chang © 2018

I can’t offer a solution to all this.

But, I know a good place to start.

Community.

It’s an important — crucial — starting point.

We need to build and be the sort of community where we can turn to one another when we’re struggling or suffering.

And not worry about being viewed as…

ridiculous,

silly,

or stupid.

I would like to facilitate such a community, where we shoulder each other’s burdens, be present for one another, as well as rejoice and celebrate together.

Will you join in?

2 thoughts on “Never Alone”

  1. The kind of community of which you speak has become a rare commodity in U.S. culture. Whether we like our not, the current president said out loud what most people think, privately: “It’s all about winning.” Think about it: How many game shows are there among the 500-or-so channels you now have access to? Pretty near every state has a lottery, and I think I’m one of the few people i know who didn’t vote for, and does not buy tickets for, the Lottery here in our state. Think about the commercials you see on TV or hear on the radio. They’re about looking better, feeling better, being stronger, going faster, having the newest car, the best house, etc., etc. — you know the drill. And the TV shows and movies you watch — even the real good ones, the ones that win all the awards? What are most of them about? If they aren’t blatantly devoted to getting a bunch of guns together and going after the bad guys and, well, winning, prevailing against a foe, then they’re about proving one’s worth, earning one’s place on a select team of experts (lawyers, doctors, etc.), or figuring out puzzles (detective shows). I know, I know: It looks a lot like community. Your’e got this hot shot: A narcissistic, brilliant guy or gal who is an ace at getting the job done but needs from three to five attendants (one’s almost always a cop) and/or managers to keep him/her from hurting himself/herself and/or getting everyone else tossed in jail. That kind of codependent get together might make for real fine scriptwriting opportunities and lots of good fun in the unreal world of Hollywood make believe. But it’s not, not, not real life. Far and few between are those pieces of cinematic art that focus even tangentially on the very important business of building community. And those that do often do so with tongue-in-cheek, mocking the idea that real, healthy community is even possible (“Friends”) or exploring only the darker side of it (“The Sopranos”).
    Here’s a question: Do we even know what community is? Would we know it if we saw it? I’d say for many, today, it’s unlikely, and there are several reasons why. For one, we simply don’t have the time. You observe community. Over time. It doesn’t wear a sign. Those who have it, simply do it and reap the benefit. But it takes time to develop community. If you’re all about winning, or looking your best or getting your next car lined up, you won’t see community happening even if it’s right before your eyes, and you certainly won’t have time to take advantage of it.
    Another reason it’s unlikely that many know true community is that to build a community, one must be willing to be vulnerable, and one must find others who are also willing to do the same. And then y’all have to get vulnerable together. If the people you “hang with” don’t know your secrets? They’re just the people you hang with. You don’t have a community. And that lonely feeling you get? Now you know why you get it.
    There’s a third reason why it’s unlikely: We’re all about results, the end game. Getting there. Once upon a time, a married couple rented a cheap apartment, slept their first night on the living room floor and dreamed of the day they’d have their first sofa. Saved their nickels and dimes. Married life was a series of baby steps, that eventually produced babies and real baby steps. But today, its all about $25,000 weddings, the trip to the Cayman Islands and the Tri-Level in the suburbs, right from day one. Community is about the process. Being together. Community starts in that modest apartment, and it’s furnished with the hopes, dreams, and confessions of people who, like those young marrieds of my youth, take the chance and trust someone enough to say “I love you just the way you are.” Every day. Day after day. Thick and thin. Sickness and in health. Richer or poorer. You know the rest.
    “Surely the Church is a community, right?” Sorry you asked. Because now I have to say, well … all too often, no it isn’t. Re-read the above. If you do more than simply show up for service on Sunday morning and run back home for six days and never see any of those people at any other time, then ask yourself honestly, do any of those people know my secrets? Do I consider the people I go to Church with my very closest friends? In time of trouble or other need, is my Church my first resort? Am I most my real self inside those walls? With those people? I don’t think so. Okay, I’m being a little over the top. But it’s to make a point. For most of us, the word “community” has a very tepid definition. We don’t demand much from the word, so we don’t expect much from those outfits that claim its status in our lives.
    I actually have some hope for Millennials. They, more than any other recent generation seem to have rediscovered the need to recapture community. Many of them grew up, ironically, in broken homes, raised by parents who both worked. They also lived in a time where those wonderful part-time jobs for kids that were rampant when I was a youth were nonexistent during their teen years. They were painfully aware, growing up, that something was missing. To their great credit, Millennials have become devoted practitioners of community. As they’ve entered the workforce, they’ve lived in community and developed lengthy, deep, enduring friendships.
    I’ve had the pleasure of observing it because I got lucky, and had to slow down for a while. Slow down long enough to see what was right before my eyes. And because I got to see it up close and personal in my youngest son and his friends. A half-dozen of them, their friendships cemented as they endured together the trials of middle school and enduring still in their late 20s. They’ve been through it all together. The know each other through and through. They fought and made up. They’ve challenged one another. They’ve helped one another. Moved one another. Supported one another.
    (They are, just by the way, of more than one racial background. Not that it matters to them. They don’t pay much attention to that stuff, which is why this is in parentheses. But people in my generation still seem to get all worried about such things. So this is just to clarify that, yes, they do, indeed, see past racial, ethnic, economic and cultural boundaries.)
    They now all live in one big house. All employed. Still together. I personally think we’ll be surprised by this generation and the contribution they will make to American culture. But we might not like it. They don’t watch commercials and game shows. They don’t buy Lottery tickets. They haven’t bought into the current version of the American Dream. Sure, they like winning video games. But that’s because it’s a game, stupid. They’re happy to remind you that they do know the difference between what happens in media and what happens in real life. And they also know how to vote.

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