Community 101

Katherine brought me flowers from her garden. Spring!

You probably didn't notice because, well, I expect you have other things to do, but I have been away from these pages for Quite Some Time. Reason being: technology. Katherine, a dear friend of mine, volunteered her partner, the very kind and long-suffering IT genius, Matt, to take a look at my old laptop which had being saying NO to quite the number of computer-expected activities, like looking at email, for instance. Matt valiantly struggled for most of one Sunday afternoon with my laptop, while I helped Katherine cut out a sewing pattern (well, let's just say, I tried to help), and visited her chickens and her broody turkey.

Matt updated and reinstalled everything that could be updated and reinstalled, and I ended up with a laptop that worked much more efficiently except that it refused to load blogger for me. The computer said NO. Then on Friday night Matt and Katherine came for dinner, bringing one of Matt's 'old' laptops with him (when I say old, I mean newer than any laptop I have ever owned!) which he had loaded with all the programs I need to function, and which magically lets me write blog posts! I am so very lucky and blessed with a richness of kind and very accomplished friends.

I often plough on through life, taking certain things for granted until a life event pulls me up short and I am forced to stop and examine a state of affairs that I normally accept without thinking about, and this week Matt's kindness, patience and generosity made me stop and think about friends. I have an absolutely stirling set of friends, a circle which waxes and wanes over time - mostly waxing I am pleased to say! We are in and out of each others' houses and lives, and we have a pretty fluid notion of 'things'. Our kids inherit all the clothes of all the other kids - last week I passed on a denim jacket to a friend's daughter and I traced its provenance through at least three mutual friends until it reached this wee poppet, and I am sure it will continue on past her as well. I love that our kids all love sharing clothes! We adults share clothes between us as well, and when I moved from a large house to a small cottage I gave away half my furniture, so I walk into my friends' houses and see my old couches, tables and sideboards and enjoy the bounty from other households at my place (my friend Sandra and I swapped dining tables as I needed a smaller one and she wanted a bigger one). I also took all our camping gear to Sandra's place as she had storage space and no camping gear and I had camping gear but no storage space. Who does that camping gear belong to? Well, neither of us and both of us and everyone else who wants to borrow it, really.

What I love is that we don't hesitate to borrow or lend or give stuff away. Last week my spade broke when the handyman who was working for me accidentally heaved an enormous sleeper onto it. When I visited my friend Monique to swap some seedlings with her, I asked to borrow her spade for an afternoon's gardening, as I hadn't got to the market yet to look for a new (secondhand) spade. She lent me her spade, then sent me a text later telling me to keep it as she had two. To be honest, she is not sure where the second spade came from. It may actually belong to one of our other friends..

Of course, friends don't exist just for the reason of sharing stuff around. We are there for each other in good times and bad. We share endless cups of tea and a listening ear. We provide meals and clean each other's houses in a crisis. We look after each other's kids and have parties and order bulk toilet paper together.

Really, we are a bunch of people who like each other, but we also provide a mutual safety net. I think one of the reasons I feel so optimistic about my life, is that whatever happens, there are people who have my back. And I have theirs. Friendship isn't always easy, and helping friends and family often requires a great investment in time and energy. I expect Matt could have found something more pleasant to do with his Sunday afternoon than helping me with my computer, and spending more hours loading programs onto his old laptop for me. And yet, what he did, I won't forget. Friendship and community doesn't work on the basis of credit and debt, it works on the basis of what goes around, comes around. Kind deeds and shared work cements friendships and creates a web of 'knowing who you can rely on' and 'being the kind of person other people can rely on'. Individuals sometimes fail but the web keeps holding us all up anyway.

That is what my community looks like, and I feel very blessed to have it. Tell me about yours..


Hazel said…
I'd missed you! I did think (hope) it was probably technology related given one of your last posts :-)

Things do happen to make you appreciate friends, don't they? I had a very difficult time about a year ago, which I didn't want to share with lots of people, but it was overwhelming how many people were there for me if I wanted or needed them to be.
Jo said…
Hazel, ah, yes, friends there in hard times. It's like striking gold, isn't it? Sometimes I get it right and sometimes.. not. I work on it, though.
Sherri Mac said…
We have been lucky enough to have neighbours who have been true friends and as you say a safety net, as we have been for them as well.
Jo said…
Sherri, good neighbours make all the difference. I am so lucky to found an entire (very short) street of good neighbours at my new place. When my neighbour over the road moved in a week after we did, I discovered she was my osteopath! We swap dog-sitting when we need it. I have a lovely older lady next door, and an older couple two doors down who would do absolutely anything for any of us, and who brings me eggs from his chickens and newspaper for my fire. I take him lemons and feed the chickens and the beloved canary when they are away. It is such a comfort to know my girls are surrounded by safe people when I am not home..
Anonymous said…
I, too, thought you were absent due to technology.

Your friendship group makes me want to move to Tassie and join in. What hampers things in Sydney is the busyness. All my friends, except one who has retired, work such long and tiring hours. And then there's the traffic!!! Who wants to get out in it?

But now I reflect I do have a group of lovely, supportive friends. One friend, who has introduced me to opera, is fixing my favourite bangle. She's a sewer, and has helped me with fixing clothes and trying to teach me to hem. I've given her pottery I no longer want, employment, and entre into a book club where she gets to share her love of reading. Another fiend and I do "debriefing" walks where we unload the things that have irked us. She's also helped me garden. And brought me cake.

I love the flowers!
Jo said…
Lucinda, well, I often wonder why people want to live in Sydney, but apparently several people do! It's interesting, isn't it, how on reflection we realise just how much we support, and are supported by the significant people around us. I imagine it is innate in our nature to forge those bonds - clearly humanity wouldn't survive without them. And yet, as you say, our busy lives often mean we don't prioritise those connections. It is something I really want to work on..
I, like lucinda, live in Sydney, and do often think of you JO, and others, and somehow wish my life more slow, and more giving. HOwever, I have a list of 'healthy habits' on my bathroom mirror and one is "helping others". And I do - ad hoc little things, like holding a suitcase and then delivering it to the recipient when she was home (and my brother the giver was at work). Loaning items from my church to another church for a funeral. For me, the note reminds me that there's giving and taking from these tanks of friendship/family and one must give to receive.

And then to friendship - I have taken a friend to his house inspections as he must move. And got a parking fine to boot. But, he got company and a second opinion, and I got a listening ear.

Like you, I've also had a relationship end whilst blogging. And I've noticed how I have a community. Me, personally. That backs me. Even if I am the 'bad' person (as sometimes relationships ending can make you think and feel). That can feel so nice to know there's people who still back you... when backing yourself can seem impossible.
Jo said…
Sarah, yes, the blogging community, oh, my goodness, you have all helped me through so many days of woe. It is pretty special to reach out with words and get kind words and good thoughts back..
Deborah said…
Hello! Your comment about passing on the denim jacket resonated for all the wrong reasons! As I grew too tall for clothes (50+ years ago) my mother would pass them on to a family up the road. I didn't like seeing favourite things being worn by someone else but now I go out of my way to make sure anything worthy is recycled.
I'm glad your technology problem is solved....when it's good it's very good, when it's bad it's awful!
GretchenJoanna said…
This is so heartening and heartwarming - there must be some nuance distinguishing those two words, and I think I need both of them to convey my feeling! I wish I had time to write the necessarily book-length account of my wealth of friends in response.

I love hearing how the failure of technology did not affect the operation of your loving community - in fact, it may shine a light on the sort of closeness that you enjoy, which involves tangible homes and jackets and flowers, and being in each other's presence in real time and space. Thank God we are sustained by that kind of support. Thank you for sharing what prompted me to muse happily on this subject this morning. <3
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Well done with your community. I am genuinely impressed, as it is - I feel - one of the bigger issues that we'll have to work with both now and in the future. It could be said that you are a captain sailing the wild seas of community! :-)!

Tracy said…
I had a community like that. And then a significant, unresolvable road bump occurred and we needed to change some things. My community has gone from rich and vibrant to minuscule, but precious. Our weekends used to be filled with friends at our place for dinner, or us at theirs. Now it is quiet and still. I used to have people to do things with. Now I don't. I used to have people to chat with after church. Now I don't. I have two very good friends that are close by, geographically and emotionally.

Being almost tribe-less is really hard, because I know what I'm missing. Despite doing all the things I can to rebuild a tribe it's not really working.
Jo said…
Deborah, different times! Op shopping and sharing clothes seems like much more of an acceptable thing now than it was a few decades ago. Or maybe it is just different circles I am moving in now!

Gretchen Joanna, I would love to read the book-long response about your community! It is interesting to contemplate how friendships form and what sustains them, isn't it? I must admit, that apart from writing the odd essay here on the blog, I am not a fan of social media, or very good at keeping in touch via any form of it. I tend to rely on real-world encounters to catch up..
Jo said…
Chris, I would seriously worry about any ship I was captaining. It would likely sink. Now, being the cabin boy of the good ship Community would suit me right down to the ground. Or whoever the person is who looks after the ship's goat. And the chickens.
But yes, your broader point about community stands - the more precarious life is, the more important it is to have and be, good neighbours and friends.

Tracy, I am so sorry to hear about your bump in the road. I can feel the sadness from here. That kind of falling off of former friends is very hard to bear. I imagine that the friends who are still close to you are very precious indeed. All the best as you rebuild that tribe. You clearly have a heart for friendship and gathering people in. I know that the right ones will come in time. Hugs.
Hazel said…
I thought of your denim jacket the other day. I saw an acquaintance's daughter in a t-shirt and told her my daughter had the same top at that age and loved it. Just as I was explaining that i realised it wasn't that exact one she stopped me- I had given it to a friend with 3 daughters, of whom one or two had worn it and then they'd passed it on to her. My daughter was so chuffed that one of her favourite t-shirts was still being loved :-)
Jo said…
Hazel, I just love that story! It is so heartening to see that consumerism doesn't have all of us in its grip - there are pockets and places between the consumer tentacles where people are sharing stuff, and doing it with such joy and humour :)

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