Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Where Everybody Knows Your Name"

    "Life does not accommodate you, it shatters you."
                                                                                    ~ Florida Scott-Maxwell
                                                                                   (from The Measure of My Days)

Last week one of the TV stations was running back-to-back episodes of the 1980s comedy series, Cheers.  I was busy with other things so I wasn’t attending to the program, but each time I heard the theme song, something glad arose inside. That was part of the attraction of the series. Not only was the writing excellent and the acting from the ensemble cast top notch, the theme song effectively gave us the gestalt of the fictional bar in Boston.  When the series originally aired, I tried to catch it each week, and I would always listen to the theme song that began and ended each episode. For some reason, listening to the theme was just as important as watching the episode.

We Need Community

That Cheers theme reminded us of the need for community. It reminded us that when life throws us a curve, when disappointments abound, it is important to have a place to go “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” None of us escapes hardship in this life. No one is immune to misfortune. That is why it is important to have a community we can turn to.

What’s more, even in the good times we cannot do what we need to do to have a good life without help from others.  There are numerous things I cannot do for myself and would not even know where to start. For example, I like to bake.  One day it occurred to me that even though I rely upon baking soda for many recipes, I had no idea where it comes from. If other people were not producing it and packaging it, my life in the kitchen would be sorely limited.  

There are numerous other examples of how we all need others for everyday living: flipping the light switch, turning the water faucet, setting the thermostat in the room, placing the garbage out on the curb – all represent actions which require a host of others to make work properly.  Yet these are just everyday factors that occur and we seldom see any of the people who make those things happen. Our real sense of belonging comes from the people with whom we interact face-to-face, the people we personally connect with. They are our family, our community, our strength and our support.

Finding Community, Creating Family

We all have those days when life deals a cruel blow – an accident on the road, an illness, or a family tragedy.  Maybe it is a betrayal, a job loss, or turn of events that seems to make the bottom fall out. Those are the days when community and friendship are all the more important.  I hope you have that community. From my experience community occurs in two ways: it arises and it is sought out.

For most of us, though we have a family of origin, we also have a family of our own choosing. Sometimes the family of origin is fraught with so much baggage and unnecessary expectations, that one cannot find that support that is needed. Robert Frost famously wrote in his poem, The Death of a Hired Man that “Home is the place where, when you go have to there, they have to take you in.” Certainly, that is important to remember, but we also need that family that is there to cheer us on and support us, not just to take us in if they have to. That is where we find our true community and our true family.

That true community will often just arise out of out friendships and contacts. Community, however, is too important not to be sought out.  Some find that community at church. Some find it in their neighborhood (though our modern neighborhoods are becoming places of isolation where we may be living in the company of strangers).  Others find community in service organizations, civic clubs or in community projects. Your community could be a reading group, a choir or a Bible study group.

Whatever your community is, wherever you find family, be sure to nourish it during the good times so you will have someone to turn to in the bad times. On any given day, good or bad, it’s always good to go “where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name.”

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