Community is far more valuable… no, make that essential, than I ever gave it credit for.
We are raising a couple of teens right now… my step kids. One is becoming very challenging in her behaviour. Very demanding and seemingly comparing our family life and home life to some unknown standard that we can never live up to.
One of the reasons we came up with that may be a contributing factor is the limitation of community our daughter has been experiencing lately. Cousins that once were part of her life are now at a distance due to some changing family circumstances.
School has been out for the summer and there havent been as many friendship interactions with so many on holidays, including our daughter for a month with mainly adult family members.
So we flipped it around and decided to make the problem part of the solution. We decided to re-engage some community for her. By this we mean creating settings where she could spend time with healthy people she respects. People who can influence her positively yet subtly.
This includes some younger adult friends, some friends her own age, and even younger kids. Why? Well, is participation in a community not how we learn so many things in life?
And not just things we are specifically taught. But even knowing we are interwoven in the lives of others we like, value, and respect, nudges our thinking toward something other than just ourselves and what we want.
We also see how others behave, interact, and respond to challenges. All of these things can drench our conscious and subconscious minds with healthy influences and examples. If nothing else, if we value the communities we are in, we will adapt our behaviour to limit the danger of us losing our place in the communities.
By communities I simply mean family, friends, neighbourhoods, schools, teams, faith groups, or any other collection of people. Again, the premise would be that these are healthy communities because the influence works both ways.
The value of communities also comes vividly to mind on the heels of my AA meeting tonight. First off, in spite of challenges I have with my AA community, I value them a great deal for helping me stay sober. It is a weird duality benefiting so much from something that I also struggle with. None the less, I accept wholly that I can gain value from things that I don’t fully understand or agree with. This is one of the gifts of recovery I have come to recognize.
In addition, I was asked to chair tonight’s meeting. We are a solid group of approximately 18 members with a total meeting attendance of typically 50 to 70 on any Friday night. We are an open meeting that welcome anyone to attend, but only alcoholics to share from the podium.
I took a chance and asked a couple of new faces in the crowd to share. In their naivety or beligerance, not sure which, they disrupted the meeting and meandered outside of our traditions. In particular, one woman, who we suspect was drunk, began addressing others in the meeting directly. Basically cross-talk from the podium. I asked her not to and she corrected herself. She then asked if I would ask a particular individual in the room to share. I replied, “No. Please just share what is on your heart and mind only”. She did with only a minimum of drama then sat down.
There was an eerie cloud about the meeting on the heels of these two disruptions. My mind, of course, immediately went into churning mode over what had just happened. I would estimate that in 8 years in these rooms, I have only had to directly correct someone or shut someone down maybe 5 times in hundreds of meetings.
But why was it important to keep the meeting on track? My answer is, “Community”. We gather at our meeting to function for an hour as a community… well closer to 2 hours with setup and tear down. But any danger to the functioning of that community means we lose some value of our involvement. And so do the people whose life that night may depend on being in a positive community for an hour.
In AA, we have a set of 12 traditions that we as a community function by. Our first tradition is:
Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
Sargeant Barnes in the 1980’s movie, Platoon, put it a different way. “If the machine breaks down, we break down”.
It is counter-intuitive in our self-centred social climate to understand the value of community. Yet I honestly see no other way for most people to function healthily.
Most of us need to sink our roots deep into the communities we are part of. Or if we currently are not in a community, maybe we ought to seek one (or more) out.