When I was growing up, whenever someone had a baby, got sick, or had some type of major life event, people would volunteer to bring them meals. So when my new-ish friend here in Austin got pregnant, I offered to coordinate meals for her. You should have seen the happily shocked look on her face…
And so, when their son was born a few weeks ago, I drove the 20 minutes to their house to bring them dinner. On my way out of the house, their next door neighbor yelled over to me, “Thanks! That’s really nice of you.” I smiled back, “Yeah, no problem!” And then he made the comment that he and his wife probably should have brought them food, given that they live right next door. I mentally had to agree with him.
I didn’t know her extremely well at the time, but her family all lived out of state and I’m not a total disaster in the kitchen. It seemed like a relatively normal and considerate thing to do for someone. It’s part of being a community, right?
On the drive home and for the next few days, I grumbled to myself about the neighbor and how he was yet another example of how the sense of “community” seems like it’s been getting lost over the years. Understandably, I supposed, with how transient people are becoming and how much technology has taken over everyday conversation. I reflected on my own life and how much I had loved being a part of the military and ex-patriot communities – that sense of having each others’ back “just because.” It was a wonderful feeling to have had.
About a week later, I had a particularly bad couple of days. One of my other new friends here offered to drive over to my side of town to meet me for lunch. Lunch. So simple, and yet it got me out of the house, talking about what was going on, and enjoying yet another tasty Austin meal. The very next day, my next door neighbor’s cat was attacked by stray dogs and our neighbor across the street stopped me outside my house to have me pass along the message that she had taken the cat to the emergency vet. She had even offered to pay the bill if the owner couldn’t be found.
And there it was, right in front of me, the “community” I thought I had lost. It wasn’t appearing to me in the way I was used to seeing it – the somewhat Pleasantville definition I had grown up with. But community is still there in the people who are willing to reach out when there is a need…just because.