This was not the article I meant to write today. Personal circumstances and recent events prompted a change of plans. First a little background is necessary.
I was raised in a small town in southern Minnesota. As a teenager I could not wait to leave. In my mind there were no opportunities for me there. I wanted an education and a good job. But, mostly I wanted to make a place for myself and to succeed separate from my family. I wanted my own identity. I only came back to that small town when I had to, holidays, birthdays, weddings and funerals. I never stayed longer than I had to.
However, in the past two years I have come to spend a lot more time there due to the death of my father. He died at the age of 87. He and my mother were still living on the farm where they raised seven children. We all left that small town for better jobs, most of in the twin cities. They were able to continue living on the farm despite their diminishing physical abilities. My father was almost legally blind from macular degeneration and my mother had mobility problems from arthritis. But, together they enabled each other to live independently. What my mother could not do physically my father could and vice-versa. When my father died everything changed. It was at that point I realized the value of community, particularly in the small town I left behind years ago.
There were many in my family who were concerned that my mother would not be able to cope on her own. She was 88 years old, she is now 90. It was suggested that she move in from the farm to assisted living or move closer to her children. But my mother was a strong and independent woman who did not want to leave her home. My siblings and I would come down and help when we could, but we couldn't be there every day. That wasn't a problem. Mom knew that she had a support system within her community and she wanted to try to make on her own. There is a neighbor who brings in her mail and sometimes picks up her groceries and medications. Another neighbor shovels her walks and plows out her driveway. One neighbor who she helped out financially mows her lawn and does odd jobs for her. A former classmate of mine who is a carpenter helped her make adaptations to her house to make it easier for her. Her community of friends and neighbors enabled her to continue to live on her farm. She could have gotten government assistance, but she preferred to do it her way.
In February of this year my mother became ill and I came down to help take care of her. She ended up being hospitalized and is currently in nursing home. Three former classmates that I hadn't seen in 30 years are helping to care for my Mom. I am confident that she is in good hands. She is never without visitors as the friends and neighbors in her community are there to visit her and support her. Thirty-two years ago I couldn't wait to leave this small town. Now I find that I am envious of my mother and all who remained there. For years I have searched for that place that I left, a community where I belonged.
I have to apologise as this has become longer than I intended. So I guess at long last I will come to the point. I think when I first joined Newsvine, the appeal was the community. But, there have been so many battles here recently that I fear for it. I have shared with you my story of community. I now challenge everyone who reads this to think about what community is. What does it mean to you, define it, each for yourselves. Then if you truly want to build a community here, build it. The constant fighting and bickering are tearing it up. If you truly care about this community, just stop fighting and find a way to co-exist.
I have not named names and I am not putting the blame anywhere. As I do not want this article to become yet another battleground, I am turning off the comments. There has already been enough said.
Additional entry: I have been asked to turn on the comments for this article. At this point I cannot do so. My intent with this article was to make people sit back from their respective computers and "think" about community, not necessarily to write about it. I would rather that people do something apart from this article than to receive comments. Let's do something to build our community and make it stronger. But if you are inspired, take it offline and do something for your community in your respective offline worlds.