Archive for the ‘community’ Category

Why Else Do We Live?   Leave a comment

I wrote about this quote from Cry, the Beloved Country six years ago.  It still makes its way into my thoughts as I think about the next thing to do and what God wants me to do today.

So far of quarantine I can safely say I’m one of the non-fans.  Some people I know, most of them introverts, or at least people who are tired of the rat race, have enjoyed the opportunity to be home and do projects they want to.  Creativity and peace have been unleashed.  Then there are those of us who liked our routine the way it was, who have been disconcerted as trips, get-togethers and even regular routines have been cancelled.  Of course we have all been saddened by the news of people who are fighting COVID-19, and grieved or frustrated by the once in a lifetime events that didn’t happen.

But in the process of trying to keep a routine going, putting together what are we doing today, when the options have been so much more limited, I’ve come back to this phrase.

Some of the things we have done included trying out a lot of new trails in the Parklands (this was in the spring before it got hot), reading a book together in the evening, grocery shopping, volunteering in two different places regularly, and enjoying a family movie night with Coke and popcorn every Saturday.  I also invested time in reaching out to people I knew might need some encouragement.  I sent gifts to my nephews.  I offered help to people I knew who couldn’t get out safely.  In short, in a time of very limited options, I have worked to make a life.

Life is pretty simple these days.  I take care of myself.  I take care of others.

But then, why else do we live?

Posted July 30, 2020 by swanatbagend in community

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What is Essential After this Election   1 comment

What is essential after this election?

I can’t stop thinking about my friends and family who are minorities–and Americans.

What must they be feeling as they look around themselves at neighbors, co-workers, bosses, school-mates, in states and precincts where they know that most of those who voted, voted for Donald Trump?

Mr. Trump’s attitude toward the public’s response to his comments has generally been belligerent, although he did give an apology regarding the video of his crude remarks about women.   He hasn’t attempted to mitigate his racist and elitist views.  Others have attempted to apologize for him, but that’s definitely not the same thing.  So it follows that people in the groups he thinks little of are wondering what it means for them and their children that overnight their citizenship has been transferred to a state which will be run by a person who hates.

How can they not be afraid of what may come next?

And I know my friends are thinking this, worrying how their neighbors will feel free to treat them, because they are saying so.

I would like to know why people who are respectful and kind voted for a leader who is none of those things.  How will it work in our country when those in authority say things that, I trust, your mother taught you never to say?  I’m thinking of the rules we learned as children, such as, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” and “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”  These are the foundational rules of our society.  But this election’s results prove that Mr. Trump was correct when he decided those rules are for lesser mortals.

Please tell me why it has become OK for our nation’s elected leader to treat other human beings with a disregard that would not otherwise be tolerated in any venue.

What is essential now is that people with heart and kindness work overtime to show their friends and neighbors that their position in our society has not changed.  We must work ten times harder than before to bridge the gap, to reach out the hand, and to speak up for others.

We must.

 

Posted November 14, 2016 by swanatbagend in citizenship, community

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Must it be so exclusive?   Leave a comment

I spent the first eight years of homeschooling life, if you count preschool co-ops, with a group of people who made decisions by consensus and who took turns doing the work of the co-op.  We met in a church, but had a variety of faith beliefs amongst us.  We talked about what to do in group meetings, which were facilitated by someone who was good at hearing our concerns and helping us hear each other.

I always felt respected in this group.  Each person was free to speak up about problems that had come up with the kids during the co-op.  Each person was valued.  Our children had a lot of fun spending time with each other.  They also got group problem solving laid out for them, not just in the way the adults modeled it, but when Miss Janet helped them to walk through the very same process in circle time when they had conflicts with each other.

So–I thought this model was the norm.

In my current city, there are quite a few homeschool co-ops.  When I moved to the area I had trouble narrowing down the options.  I found few that were similar to what our family was used to.  Many were quite large and well established, which can be a plus for those who want the playing field already marked out.

But in a large group you will find it impractical to solve things by consensus.  And with dozens or hundreds of students and parents, you can’t create the schedule or student conduct guidelines by consulting everyone.  All that is understandable due to size.

What bothers me is that some of the co-ops and homeschool mailing lists require member parents to agree to a statement of faith; in my area that’s the Christian faith.

However, there are quite a few homeschoolers in any metro area who aren’t Christian.

That doesn’t mean Christian homeschoolers don’t have a great deal in common with them.

Most homeschool parents want to give their kids a quality education.

Most have moral standards they live by, such as the Golden Rule.

Most homeschool parents have talent, skills, creativity and energy (well, some energy) to offer the group.

Most people want to experience community.

When you homeschool it’s nice to have a place where your children can learn some new subjects, be part of a group, meet some new friends, and be part of a broader community.

But you can’t really do that if the door is shut in your face up front.

For some online homeschool mailing lists signing a statement of faith is required to be on the list, receive email, and post to the group.  This is viewed as necessary in order to avoid list members getting into doctrinal arguments.  But it seems to me that variable could be avoided by simply stating that discussions of theology should stay off list.  If any person broke that simple rule she could be removed from the list.  Other online groups work in a similar way, for example if flaming occurs.

Possibly more to the point would be a code of conduct which could be effective online and definitely in a co-op.  If the expectations of how the group would work and how the people in the group would treat each other were published up front, everyone would know how the group would operate.  The Golden Rule, conflict resolution, co-op goals, what elements of faith (if any) could be discussed, what the master plan is–all of these could be laid out.

Utilizing a code of conduct would allow people from different backgrounds to come together for a mutual purpose.  You’d know what you were signing up for and how you would be expected to behave, but you wouldn’t have to give assent to a set of religious beliefs that might not be yours.

If you can’t ethically sign a statement saying you adhere to a faith, but all you want is to find a good, active co-op for you and your children to be part of…where does that leave you?

On the outside.

Talk about missed opportunities.   It’s a loss to all parties.

Posted December 22, 2015 by swanatbagend in community, homeschooling, the church

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Relationally Apathetic?   3 comments

I’ve lived in 11 different cities or towns in 9 different states.  I have moved around a lot in 48 years, less than some people, but enough to develop sufficient social skills to make friends wherever I go.  At least so said some friends of ours from one of our old churches when the subject of how I interact came up.  I was glad to hear that was their perception of me, ’cause that is what I like to do.

I lived in one town between the years 1994 and 2006, and what I’m wondering is this.

Did our culture irretrievably change during that time period, so that making friends became ten times more difficult when I moved nine years ago, or did I just move to the most relationally apathetic place I have ever lived?

Which is it?  both/and?

I know people are busy.  I know, because I’m busy too.  My children aren’t inundated with activities but when you add together homeschooling, doing the planning for that, doctor and therapy appointments, vacations, family events, each person only has so much energy.  Then there are church commitments if you’re part of a faith community.  I appreciate that our church keeps those to a minimum, where you can wisely allocate your time to meaningful ministry, outreach, living, without getting bogged down in obligations just to keep a program running.

Busy is understandable.  We’ve all been there.

I suppose it could be true that I just need to revamp my own priorities and try harder.

Possibly, and I’m processing this one, I need to consciously decide to invest less time on the things I do on the internet, and redirect that toward contacting friends another way and spending time with people in person.

And, I am thankful for the gems we get to spend time with (many of them those very hardworking, busy women I referenced in my recent blog post “A Day with a Friend?”).  Our family has been blessed with several lovely families whose company we have really enjoyed for many of the past nine years.

I just haven’t figured out why, despite making continued efforts to develop friendships, my efforts haven’t borne the fruit I expected, nor the fruit that an equivalent amount of effort elsewhere, in the past, would have done.  It seems as if what used to work doesn’t work any more, and I find myself wondering if there’s been a new class in Friendmaking 101 that I have completely missed.

Have you had this experience?  Please share your thoughts.

Posted October 21, 2015 by swanatbagend in community, friendship

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A Day with a Friend?   Leave a comment

It’s not that I have no friends.  Sure, I don’t have as many as I would like to, I guess because in my mind, I’m still living in junior high, where I had friendships with most everyone in my class of a hundred.  Apparently, that’s my model of what day-to-day life with friends should be.

Obviously, that is a bit out of date now that I’m pushing 50.

But I do have friends.

I have quite a few friends that I keep up with through social media, and a few less that I see every three to six months for dinner or dessert, to get caught up.  I have fewer friends that come to my house and sit and chat on the porch.  I have a couple of friends I get together with for longer visits, with my children and theirs.

Those are the relationships, the whole family friendships, that I really treasure.  They are jewels.

I know some of the reasons time spent with these friends doesn’t happen as much as I or they would like.

We have reasons like these: Homeschooling

Children’s activities

Distance

Chronic health problems and low energy

Five kids and counting

Doctor’s appointments

Work.School.Stuff.

You know what I mean?

I used to have time to spend a full day with a friend.

When our oldests were little, my closest friend and I would spend the day together about every month. We lived an hour apart, even then, but we enjoyed our time together enough that we’d book those days on our calendars and look forward to them, almost better than chocolate.  My son and I would get up, eat breakfast, dress, load our bag for the trip over and head out.  We’d come back barely in time to put dinner together before Dad got home.

The time would fly by.  We talked, took the kids for walks, took them outside to play, threw lunch together, dealt with needs, tried putting the kids down for naps, laughed, schemed, punned, and just generally had a good time.  (Wendy, please forgive me for being unwilling to get together on Mondays in those days.  🙂  I hope you know you really are more important to me than catching up on my laundry.)

I know I thought my life was full and busy then, but I hadn’t seen anything yet.

Now that I have more kids, I love the friends as much as ever, but apparently, I don’t have as many minutes in a day.

Posted September 30, 2015 by swanatbagend in community, friendship

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Name Tags?   1 comment

I love name tags.  I realize that they are for people over forty (raising hand).  I would like totally love it if everyone I met would wear a name tag.  At least for the first few weeks.  After that I would be able to go without the tags, because I would have had a visual to see for a long enough time to memorize the name.

Don’t like name tags?  Too expensive?  They get lost, people forget them, they get worn out, they go out of style and make your organization look dated?

I guess that is all true. Can’t deny it. But here’s an idea that might help me remember.

A last name.

How many people have you interacted with in the past month?  How many were new to you, or people you don’t see very often?  How many gave you their last names?

I would estimate that one in twenty-five people I meet will add his last name when he introduces himself to me, and I suspect that even that statistic may be inflated because I always introduce myself with both my first and last names.

A last name.  I love it!  A great way to differentiate all the Chads, Steves, Kaylees, Kaylas, and Mikaylas I meet.  I don’t have to explain to someone else when trying to describe the person I just met: “She’s the Kayla who has brown hair and eyes who usually sits in the back row.”  I could just use her secondary name–otherwise known as a surname.

I like it.  I really think using surnames in introductions would revolutionize my over forty life and ability to remember people’s names.  Besides, what are people hiding?  is our society one giant witness protection program?

I suppose first name only introductions are intended to make people feel welcome and at ease.  Perhaps it’s easier to just say one name?  Saves time?  I’m trying to think of other valid reasons to just use a first name.  Feel free to comment and let me know the most important ones.

As you may have guessed by now, I’ve come to the conclusion that the first name trend is not a good one.

It makes names harder to remember, not easier, since they tend to be more similar to others’ names.

It creates awkward and socially insensitive situations where a twenty something person is calling a seventy something person by his first name, say in a waiting room, when the two people have never met before.

It is supposed to make people feel closer to others, but how many studies have you seen which prove that people have more close friends and feel less lonely now than they did twenty years ago?  Instead first name only introductions generate a false sense of intimacy which is just an empty promise.  It keeps people at a distance by blocking out most information that could create more of a connection.

Now when people introduce themselves to me that way, it feels as if they maybe don’t need or want me to remember their names. They are floating in a sea of anonymous Kaylas, Steves and Chads. How can you really learn more in an interaction with someone who is just one word?

At least you’ve kept your life simpler.

 

 

 

 

Posted May 6, 2015 by swanatbagend in community

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They Never Saw the Grey   Leave a comment

I’m young at heart.  Now I know why “older people” want to be seen that way.

Of course, I never thought about what women older than me wanted when I was 25.  Now I wish I had.  I’ve probably missed some pretty great opportunities to have a lot of laughs and to gain a lot of wisdom.

I’m not saying that I personally have that much wisdom, but I do have something to offer.  Friendship.  Loyalty.  A sense of humor.  The time to hang out.  Hands that know how to fold a mean pile of laundry.  Ideas for how to teach your children.  Ways to prepare some pretty delicious food.

I can offer my friendship to any other woman I meet.

I just doubt that many of the women I see on a regular basis realize I have something to offer.  I’m not perceived as a potential friend because I’m older than they are.

It goes without saying that those people who haven’t let age even come into the equation are deeply appreciated.  Jennifer, Mangala, Erica, Toby, Esther: these women never saw the grey.

 

 

Posted April 2, 2015 by swanatbagend in community

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Generation Gap?   Leave a comment

I have a question.

Do youthful people the age of my children want to be greeted and acknowledged by adults instead of ignored?  Or, do they really not want to be noticed?

I know for teens the stereotype is their attitudes about their parents could be summed up in one word: embarrassing.  However, other adults who are not one’s parents don’t have that reputation to overcome.

The way I remember it, there were some great people I knew when I was a teen, some at church, some at school.  Some were people Dad brought home from work for dinner.  When those adults shook my hand and greeted me, I felt good.  If they asked me about myself I didn’t mind talking.  I appreciated being acknowledged.

The sweet older ladies at church always seemed interested in how I was doing.  Several of them gave me cards or gifts when I graduated from high school.  Some even when I got married three years later.  That kind of attention and care is truly sweet.

I liked it.

So, now I’m the (relatively) older person.  I like to meet people and talk to them and I really don’t care what age they are.  And, I’ve noticed that adults in general seem to only talk to other adults.  They don’t interact with the children who are also standing right there.  Why is that?  Am I missing something?  Doesn’t every person deserve a greeting and an acknowledgement?

Not to mention what I’m missing if I only initiate a conversation with people who are in my immediate demographic.  How dull.

I’d like to hear your opinion.

Posted April 1, 2015 by swanatbagend in community

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Like Pioneer Women   Leave a comment

So I’m not much like a pioneer woman.  But over the past eight years of my life, I have marked out a significant way in which I definitely work like they did.

It’s not anything to do with making jam and pickles, although I do that.

Nor is it manuring the garden, turning the earth, planting seeds, although I do that.  Cooking the green beans and using up all the cucumbers–I specialize in that also.

It’s absolutely nothing to do with sewing or quilting, because beyond replacing lost buttons, I know nothing about sewing.

I do know a few things about “birthin’ a baby,” which I suppose pioneer women knew as well.

I’m thinking of my life socially.  I suspect living in the country and homeschooling have led to the current arrangement , which probably should not surprise me.  If my children were at a school daily, or even several times a week, my trajectory would be altered.

When I was a child and in public school, I saw teachers and other kids five days a week. In high school add in dances or slumber parties and I had contact with my friends almost every day of the week.  If youth group was on Sunday night….whcih I believe it was, make that seven days.

You get used to that level of interaction, although believe me I felt the need for time alone.  That’s why when I got home, I would not go out to play.  My street was full of kids, and I needed to be alone with books for at least an hour.

That’s why I think that my interactions feel so different now.  It’s difficult to change your early internal programming.

Now, I see other adults when I take my son and daughter to appointments or classes or co-ops.  And I see my friends when I make an appointment to see them.  Gratefully, I’m friends with my children’s friend’s mothers (or perhaps, they have become friends with the children of my friends), so we all get time together when we work out an afternoon to see them.

But, we don’t see the often.  We certainly don’t see them every day.

That is why I thinks of pioneer women.  They saw other women when there was a community event, such as a quilting bee or barn raising.  A farming wife, if blessed, had a church near her homestead, and she was able to enjoy company on the Sabbath.  Other than that–it was children, husband and her own thoughts.

So those times with friends are much-anticipated, and much appreciated.

 

 

Posted February 11, 2015 by swanatbagend in community

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Electronic Community?   1 comment

I object to it, because it’s a myth.

It’s ridiculous to think that having a social networking site is going to assure community, connection and relationships.

This, my friends, is impossible.

In a world where introductions have shrunk to a mere first name, soon forgotten, true, intimate relationships are difficult to build.  And, they don’t happen on a website.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook.  (Most of the time; sometimes I hate it.)  That site has made many things possible.  I’ve reconnected with long-lost friends.  I would have had no other simple way to find them nor they me.  I now am able to talk with Becky from third grade in Alaska, Rosanne from fifth grade in Montana, and any number of dear friends from junior high and high school in Oklahoma.  I can keep up with current friends where I live now.  But I can only do it in black letters on a screen.  And I can only do it with people who like to sit and type black letters on a screen.  If they aren’t using the tool, I’m not connecting with them at all.

And there’s something to be said for being face to face.

For one thing, it takes a lot more time.  It takes effort to schedule a time that works for both of you.  It takes energy to get yourselves to the same location so you can be in each others’ presence.  It’s a lot of work.  It’s just easier to be at home, email when I’m ready, text if I want to, and check messages when I darn well feel like it.

And the current reality is that information is disseminated and projects organized entirely on the internet.  Churches are now set up where you get all your information online.  I just need to accept that reality and make it work.

I’m having a bit of trouble with that.  In some of the groups on my church’s website, there are almost no members.  If I go to the group and it tells me there are 2 members, 50% of whom have “engaged” today, and I can clearly see that 50 % is me, and also observe that the website’s apparent definition of “engagement” must be “turning on the internet and going to this particular website,” (because that is all I just did) frankly, I call that insane.

That is not engagement and no community was strengthened in that moment.   You can call it engagement, but saying so ain’t going to make it so.  It’s just an electronic interface.  If people aren’t using it, it doesn’t connect them.

Now, that can change.  As more people become aware of this particular group on this particular social network, it will introduce us to each other and help us help each other.

In my experience, the bottom line for relationship building is time spent together–face to face–working, talking, sharing, living alongside each other.  That is what builds relationships.  Eating dinner together, laughing, arguing, making up.  That is what brings joy, intimacy and community.  Suffering together, helping each other.  That is what matters.

I think I’m done with the internet for today.

 

 

Posted October 31, 2014 by swanatbagend in community

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