Saturday, November 29, 2008

Community

I once took a course at the Open University in England. It was about community. What is community? What did it use to be? What does it mean for people living in the world today? Does it mean different things to different people and in different cultures? Basically, it was a intro into learning for adults kind of course. It didn't dive into the sort of academics that you would in anthropology or political science; it was simply a theme used to get people thinking.

I did really poorly at this course. I just didn't understand the concept of community. I had moved around quite a bit during my childhood, so I never really settled into a community. By the time I did (sort of) settle down, I wasn't really sure how to be a part of a community. I almost ashamed to admit that I didn't know what it meant.

Sure, I had family and they were important to me; but you know how it is when you are young and reckless - you want to stand on your own two feet. You want to discover if you can make your own way in the world. Sometimes this means moving to another country.

About a year after that course, I came home when my grandparents became ill. I had a choice, to stay or to come back. I figured that I have to be able to live with myself, so I chose to spend as much time with my grandparents and my family as I could. Otherwise, if I didn't, I wouldn't be able to look myself in the eye. I think that this was the start of it for me. It was a selfless action. I went against my own desires to be independent so that I could give something of myself to my family. It was a major turning point in how I saw my place in the world.

As my grandmother became increasingly ill, I picked up my knitting needles again. I knit at her bedside and I felt connected to not just her, but all the woman in my family who had picked up some yarn and pointy sticks. 'Though, I made different sorts of things than those who knit before me, I felt that each stitch was just like the ones that my grandmother used to make those phentex slippers I always loved getting for Christmas. When she became worse and less aware of the world, I came almost every day to sit with her. I always brought my knitting and sometimes when I knit, I would see her fingers moving with that all so familiar motion. She was knitting in her mind to the rhythm of my clicking needles.

She died on a Tuesday in November. I don't regret a single moment of spending time with her. I just wish that I had realized how important to me she was sooner.

It was this feeling of being connected to the past and the present through knitting that changed something in me. Now, because of the lessons yarn teaches me, I'm changing again.

I admit, I still have trouble understanding what community means. Sure, I can quote all sorts of academic definitions, but that's not enough to understand something like this. You have to experience it, to immerse yourself in it, and most importantly, to become a part of it. I am learning more and more each day.

I think, community is about individuals more than anything else. It is about each person giving what they can, a kind word, a recipe for some wicked-awesome chicken soup, or simply giving time by sharing a cuppa tea with each other and talking about things that make you smile. I'm pretty certain I'm getting the hang of giving. But community is not just that. It's also about receiving, something I'm still uncomfortable with. It's about your friends and even strangers helping you up when you fall so that you can be there to help the next person when they need a little something. It's about knowing that little things, like a single knitted stitch, add up and when each person gives just a small bit of themselves; it adds up to equal something amazing.

I never would have thought that a simple four hour spinning course would lead to me being welcomed into such a wonderful community.

I wish I knew how to say thank you. I don't know the right words to say this. Each individual of this community has been so supportive. They give what they can, be it a kind word or the Herculean efforts of S. &co, and the Trampled by Fleece campaign. It's all so... I don't have a big enough word to say how greatful I am. I hope that one day I can repay this kindness.

1 comment:

Josiane said...

Don't worry about when and how you'll be able to repay the kindness. One of the wonderful things about life is that you'll be given the opportunity to do so, and it may happen on a day and in a manner you were not expecting at all.
Enjoy this new(ish)ly found sense of community! You are already bringing a lot to the communities you are a part of, so this is perfectly normal that the other members of those communities want to give something back to you. You already know that I, for one, do! Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to do something.