by Jackie Woods
I grew up in a small community in the Midwest. And since my Dad had the general merchandise store in town, most of the population came there to shop. I was everyone’s child. They loved me, and they also felt free to parent me. Therefore, as a child, community had both good and bad connotations. I liked feeling loved, but I was not so fond of being parented by everyone.
But when I grew up and went away to college, I missed the sense of care and belonging that I felt in our little town. And I even missed the parenting. Since my room was right next to the elevator and the lounge, I kept my door open so people would feel free to drop by. That helped relieve my ache for community, but it was not the same sense of belonging I had felt from my growing-up days.
Perhaps it is my auspicious beginning that has brought me to this belief, but I do totally believe that humans are basically communal people that need each other for care and also for parenting. By that, I mean we need to be loved enough by someone that they will confront us when we are going in the wrong direction. But we also need to be honored when we go in the right direction. I know I certainly need to be encouraged forward as well as pushed aside at times.
People need to talk. Not for the other’s benefit, but to hear what goes on inside of them. In other words, we need other people in order to know ourselves. It is amazing how some thoughts ever present in my mind can seem so insignificant when spoken aloud. And feelings, often causing big waves inside me for days can become smooth just by sharing them with someone who knows me to be more than those feelings.
I think it has been my attempts at creating community since leaving home that finally made the Adawehi Community a reality. My first step towards community was the open door at college. Then, came the sharing of baked goods in my first neighborhood. It was during that time that I created sharing groups at a church. Then as my need and ability grew, I was able to sponsor foreign students attending Emory University. These were not seen as good deeds but exchanges necessary for my well-being as well as theirs.
Recognizing yourself as a communal person is the first step towards community. The second is being willing to give and to receive in equal measure.