Community

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.

A Tragic Return

She’s young, in her early thirties. She just realized she is pregnant, and this is her sixth child. Pregnant again. One more tie to him. She’s wished for awhile they had never met. She is the only one working now, after he lost his job and the house foreclosed. He stays at home with the kids. He is getting antsy, though. Now, he has started in on the kids. It used to just be her. It was okay when it was just her, but not the kids.

She stepped into our office, and we groaned. Not another intake. We didn’t want it to be busy that day. When she sat down, the tears exploded. Personally, I was tired. I couldn’t do another of these stories. Most of the time, I didn’t think the abuse was all that bad. I was becoming jaded about what was “real” abuse. I was wrong about her, though. She was strong, and she had been for a long time. That’s a common misconception about abuse victims, that they are weak. They are not weak. They are loving and too strong.

Her story went on for hours. She never really stopped crying. We wrote, she cried. We started to piece together the living hell of her existence. The illness came back for me again. I get ill when I know it was just that bad. I get scared for her. Where was she going to stay tonight? Where would the children stay? As it dawned on us that she would have to return to him, we frantically called shelters. There was no room for a woman and five children. So, that was that.

She could not serve him. She would have to wait, patiently, to see if she could eventually get into a shelter. She would have to return to his bed that night. And she did. And again the next night. After two weeks, still no service. We called. Should we reissue it for the court? Yes. But not a strong yes. A yes that lacked conviction.

She went home to him that night two weeks ago. Maybe not emotionally or mentally, but she physically returned. In the following two weeks, she returned in another way. This protection order will die, along with any chance for escape, and maybe along with her. This is the tragedy. This is the failure. This is the hard underbelly of abuse so engrained that she still loves him.

Why Employment is The Most Important Issue…

… on the table, right now. You see, economically speaking, employment means more money flowing in the economy. It means more taxes for the federal government. It means more production and consumption. And in our capitalist world, this is a very good thing. But employment is about something more.

Employment makes a person feel productive. They are productive in their job, which provides them money. They spend the money, or save it, which also creates a feeling of productivity, or at the very least, enjoyment. Employment is also vital for social standing. Unemployment, at least at a certain age, is a social stigma so harsh, that it can prevent friendships, dating relationships, and other social relations. More than any of this, employment is a way to add to the world in a way which generates a feeling of significance. This is not to say that this feeling stays with us for very long. Insignificance is one of my own personal worst fears, and the feeling creeps upon me too often. Yet, for moments in each day, when I am working and I am busy, I feel like I am actively participating in something. I matter. I am serving someone or doing vital work that assists someone else. I feel as if I am participating in something bigger, and my participation is a positive thing. Employment provides me dignity.

Our country is ridden with debt, and more debt seems to be impending. We are involved in costly wars and diplomatic Catch-22’s. Regardless of all this, when a population is unemployed, when its dignity dwindles, then a country has real problems. People need to add to this arrangement of society we have all made, and they need to feel as if they add.

I recently acquired another part-time job. I work M-F, and I am usually exhausted. But the idea of working more, of adding more, is a thrill. It feels like the best thing that has happened to me in months. It is adding to my dignity. Creating jobs, necessary jobs, is a way to instill dignity and faith back in the people. Let’s get them out, moving, participating, and regaining the knowledge that no matter what they feel, they are still significant.