Concentric Circles of Community

“There isn’t a single challenge that we face in this community or in this country … that can’t be surmounted by a renewed sense of community. And that really came through; this notion that we have a stake in each other really came to the surface.”

– Governor Deval Patrick

We are now one week out from the tragic events that kicked off a difficult week for the people of Boston.  In the midst of this senseless violence, the wall-to-wall news coverage has shown us great moments of selflessness on the part of race volunteers, first responders, law enforcement officers, and the general public.  It is events like these, as tragic as they are, that send all of us in search of a community.  These events also redefine how we look at community.

As someone who has lived in the greater Boston area for the last twelve years, I consider this my second home.  While I will always be a Clevelander, I think Boston is one of the greatest cities in the world.  And so when the events of last week started, I found myself first looking for comfort in the most intimate of communities, my home.  My wife grew up in this area, attended high school in Boston, and considers Boston her home.  We each hugged our little boy a little harder Monday night, and we both seemed to wonder what type of world our second child will arrive into in just a few short weeks.  This child, like his or her sibling, will be born in a Boston hospital, thus continuing our family’s connection to this area.

Branching out from my home, I spent a lot of time connecting with colleagues and students. We checked in on one another, asked after acquaintances and family members, and seemed to demonstrate a bit more care.  Our school’s leadership team sprung into action moments after news of the bombings came our way to think through how to proceed.  Throughout the week, we continued to communicate so as to provide some sense of stability in a world quickly robbed of this quality.  We looked after our community in the best way we knew how, and we watched the community look after members who felt vulnerable.

Although our school is about 30 miles outside of Boston, the School felt connected to and in solidarity with the larger Boston community.  During our seated dinner last Friday night, we sang “Sweet Caroline”, and on Saturday, students and faculty dressed in yellow and blue.  In and out of school, I noticed a bit more pride in being “from Boston” or living “in Boston”.  Red Sox hats, Bruins jerseys, Patriots sweatshirts, and Celtic t-shirts seemed just a bit more prevalent.  Facebook was filled with posts from people who had moved away, but still felt connected to The Hub.  The Boston community was no longer geographically isolated to eastern Massachusetts.  We are all trying to show that we are connected to this city, because that is the best way to show support for those people injured or killed and their loved ones.

While the event was the worst of human nature, the sense of community that has arisen – in all its shapes and sizes – demonstrates the best.  The human animal needs connectedness, possibly nowhere more so than during difficult moments; we need our various communities.  At my core, I am an optimist.  The sun will come out, people will come together, and I know that we will get through this time.  We will not forget this event, but joy will return to the Boston Marathon.  The community will support the event, the survivors, and those who are grieving.  As Governor Patrick noted, “There isn’t a single challenge that we face in this community or in this country … that can’t be surmounted by a renewed sense of community.”  The people that make up my various concentric circles of community have shown that to be the case.

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