I belong to a group of individuals selected at the beginning of university to form a “community.” We go on retreat before the school year starts; we affirm each other through difficult experiences as the school year continues; we send reflections to each other from abroad. For all intents and purposes, this formed community is incredibly unique and an honorable attempt at creating a supportive, intentional community. I often feel blessed.
Yet, I cannot removed from my mind that fact that this community was created by an outside force. I didn’t establish it. In fact, those who established it do not even participate in the community. It is contrived. I participate and often enjoy it, but even if I was not eager to be part of it, it is still ordained. I ask: can a community that is forced and set up by an outside force be as genuine as an accidental community?
My work this summer in the Protection Order Advocacy Office has provided an entirely new example of community. As the youngest person there, my experience is minimal, both in the field of advocacy as well as the field of life. Yet, these 70 year old, 65 year old, 39 year old, and 35 year old, brilliant, hard working, kind women have accepted me as an equal. They take me to lunch. We get drinks, even though they know my ID is fake. They throw lunch parties every week. They know my roommates’ names, my boyfriend’s name, and all about my family. They ask, and I ask back. When I cry, they know what to say. They affirm me in a way that shows they respect me, because they have seen me work. I am part of a community that I treasure endlessly, because no one told me I had to be part of it.
I do not want summer to end, because I do not want to give up my new community. I want to be there everyday. No matter how exhausting social work may be, they rejuvenate me. I understand, even better now, the importance of community in uplifting and cherishing individuals. I understand intentionality, because a higher, bureaucratic force did not establish this new community. It is not better than my school community, but it is inherently different. These affirmations mean something more to me. It gives me faith that as I prepare to leave school and become one of these mysterious “adults,” I am not alone.