Building Community and How Much It Really Matters

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Since the beginning of our redesigned GRIT, we have lifted up the idea of building community as one of our core values and have encouraged our readers to reach out to each other and to their neighbors to create and strengthen the ties that bind. GRIT people help each other. It’s who we are, right? 

This idea is as practical as it is idealistic: We all need help sometimes, and we never know when that time might come. Rural people rarely lose sight of this value – we just help each other out because that’s how it’s done. Folks from urban and suburban areas tend to treasure anonymity and independence a bit more, but the feedback and great letters we get here in the GRIT offices tell us that people from many backgrounds are finding all sorts of wonderful ways to cooperate with and care for each other. We all know from personal experience – and from watching the news lately – that whatever trials life throws our way, we’ll get by better working together to meet the challenge.  

I’ve recently had such a reminder of this I still get choked up just thinking about it. In early February I got a scary medical diagnosis, followed by major surgery and some complications. I’m well on my way to recovery now, though I’ve had more antibiotics pumped into me over the past four weeks than my body has seen in several decades. Still, I’m back at work, taking it easy and recuperating in a sensible way as I can manage, given how much I hate sitting still.  

Despite the scare and the discomfort, I’m grateful for so much – beginning with the medical technology that spotted the problem in the first place and the skilled surgical team that made me confident in the outcome throughout the experience. I could have done without the staph infection afterward, but I know these bugs are rampant in hospitals everywhere, and I’m thankful that the deluge of antibiotics knocked this one back.  

What I’m most grateful for, however, is my amazing community, beginning with my son and daughter, who came to be with me for the week of my surgery and the week of recuperation afterward. All those years struggling as a single mom to make sure they “turned out,” and now, these two amazing adults just hear the words, “I’m having surgery,” and they book flights to Kansas.  

My friend Nancy T. is the main conspirator in this community project of supporting me. Nancy is a retired third-grade teacher, short of stature and long of spirit. She came to be with my daughter during my surgery and then organized, unbeknownst to me, KC-Watch, in which each of several friends agreed to physically see me every day of the week. They brought soup, they came by just to say Hello, they took me out to lunch when I felt well enough. Other friends volunteered to walk my dog, friends at work covered for me so I could rest and not worry about the deadlines that define our world.  People sent cards and called and texted and prayed and just generally let me know I was on their minds and in their hearts. In short, they circled the wagons and weren’t going to let me not be taken care of. 

I can honestly say that all this support has made the biggest difference in how I feel now and how quickly I’m returning to my normal life. I simply cannot imagine going through an experience like this alone, and I will be instructed by that thought for the rest of my life. Every little gesture mattered to me during those days when I felt so weak and helpless. Every card, every phone call and crock pot of soup, the flowers and cards -they all made a difference. Maybe those gestures didn’t seem like much to the individuals who made them, but collectively they added up to a tightly woven net that held me fast to this life and to a healthy future.  

So to all my friends, family and co-workers, thank you more than tongue can tell. And to any of you out there wondering if just taking one little ol’ green bean casserole to that neighbor down the street will actually matter, I say, “Schlep that casserole, my friend. It will matter more than you’ll ever know.”