I have been immersed in the novel The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck for several days.
I finished it late last night. I first read the book in college and barely remembered it. I did remember that one of the characters was named Rose of Sharon. My undergraduate school Cornell University sent a copy of the book to all of its alumni because they felt it was very timely to read in the midst of our current economic challenges. It was about a family in the 1930's who were tenant farmers and got kicked off of their land and replaced by tractors. There was widespread unemployment and millions of hungry people traveling to California in search of enough work to feed their families. The 12 members of this family traveled across the country with all of their belongings piled into a sawed off jalopy. Everything was scarce except for their respect for each other which seemed to grow as their money supply shrunk. At one point the mother of the family says, it seems like we only used to think of family and the less we have the more we think of everybody. People pulled together and helped each other even though they had next to nothing themselves. There was a sense of community created by people in tent camps traveling west sharing each other's births and deaths, tragedies and celebrations. At the end a young woman who has just given birth to a dead baby feeds an adult man dying of hunger her breastmilk. What I got from the book is that in times of trouble people pull together strengthening themselves and each other. In these challenging times it is now important for us to pull together too. Community means different things to different people. I participate in several groups and yet don't feel like I really belong. To me it has always been difficult to stick around with a group of people and accept all of the dogma and drama that goes with it. I am rethinking my position. I think I had the idea that I had to like everyone to be part of a community. Of course that is never the case. It makes sense that in a community of people brought together for whatever reason there are people who are drawn to each other and people who are not. I am yearning to feel part of a community with enough like-minded people in it. I don't have to like everyone, nor does everyone have to like me. That is a fantasy, just like the perfect partner. I am ready to begin searching for a community with like enough values that I can feel safe being myself. I don't know what it will look like or even what the common interest that will gather the people together will be. I am open to begin creating one if that is what is needed. Where are you about community? What has been your experience of community in the past? Is it appealing to you to feel a part of a community or not?