I have always struggled with the notion of community. Maybe it comes from not often having a sense of belonging. Even in my birth family there have been times when I felt very much unwanted. This is not my imagination, I’ve been explicitly told as much. Sometimes it’s been useful and appropriate, like when my sister and I, as young adults, effectively kicked each other out of our parents house. Other times it’s been rather hurtful.
There are organizations that I’ve belonged to that function to some degree like communities. Some that I’ve paid dues to and others that I have earned the right through study and initiation. Alumni organizations are kind of like that, as are Wiccan traditions and other magical orders. Even with membership I have certainly been at events where I was rather unwanted. I really do try to avoid making people uncomfortable.
Unfortunately when dealing with communities (or any group of people) there is politics. Sometimes showing up is necessary to maintain any kind of respect within the community. After all they have a harder time talking trash about you when you are present to refute the accusations.
Apparently on a political level I am often perceived as a threat. Maybe it’s because I’m a smart and verbal woman. Maybe it’s because I call it like I see it if someone asks for my opinion. Maybe it’s because if someone sets up a game I’m likely to play, although I am usually much less invested in the results. My general philosophy of community is that people are going to say stuff and as long as I continue to be present and consistent eventually whatever trash talk is in the gossip stream will fade.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve got less interest and patience for this kind of high school “mean girls” nonsense. I am looking for a different way to be in community and to interact with community. Sometimes this means standing up and saying “you’re not funny.” Sometimes this means participating in support of organizations that I don’t really belong to. Sometimes this means taking a step back and re-evaluating the culture of community and how I would like to fit in.
So this weekend Orion and I went out in support of a community organization that we don’t belong to. Walker Church is that kind of community organization. Their influence reaches far beyond their membership. As an organization they have always been active in social justice issues in the larger community. They have supported the arts and small voices that also work on a local community level. They promote local and sustainable food for all people. They have been open and inclusive to people of all faiths.
When Walker Church burned in a lightning strike ignited fire it was a blow to the congregation. The loss of the church building was also a great loss to the larger community. As they hold fundraising events to support the construction of a new building Orion and I felt a joyful obligation to show up in support.
We danced to country two step music from the Cactus Blossoms. Then we sang along with Gospel Machine. We had to leave during the bluegrass of the Roe Family Singers. The night started before we got there and continued for hours after we left but it felt good to contribute to a community whose mission I believe in. We were welcomed and we had fun, even if I don’t really belong.