Sunday, March 15, 2009

Who Are Your Rocks? The Recssion Sucks, Who Ya Gonna Call?

This is the final column in a three part series exploring the power of community as a much needed and oft forgotten tool for stress, coping and perhaps even flourishing in life. Two weeks ago, I outlined the seven areas in our lives we can build a community, (here), last week we explored how to "eat, pray love" your way to closer connections (here). For this week, I have been asking our readers and contributing writers to share stories of "who are your rocks?" How have you created community in a powerful way?

Many of us have been far too busy earning and spending money to worry about making friends or building a regular social network. Trouble is, when times are tough, a solid community of people in your life can be key to helping you make connections with others to find a new job, start a new business or ride the bumps of a stressed out marriage. The recession sucks. Who ya gonna call?

I have heard some amazing stories of how we experience community in our lives, and thank you to everyone who replied. Kim Zoller wrote:
I co-owned a corporate training business for about a dozen years and our work focused on creating more supportive, meaningful and committed communities within the workplace. I found that most people were hungry for these deeper and more nourishing relationships.

Marvin Thomas saw this need dramatically in his private practice as a psychotherapist, when he realized many of the people sitting in his chair would not need to be there if they were "embedded in a strong, supportive group of people." As a young father and professional, he realized this was missing in his own life as well. In his book, "Personal Village- how to have people in your life by choice, not chance" he describes how revitalizing community is urgent business.

While this topic has been of interest to me for several years, it seems even more pertinent now. We are all freaked out. We don't have the money for 'retail therapy', or even traditional therapy for that matter. We don't really want to talk about mindless things. We need to talk about what matters, and 'turn to one another' to build a life raft that will carry us beyond today and beyond this mess. Something we can count on.

Doris Wurzbach won the prize for the 'best rocks' story. Doris is 86 years old and an austere lovely woman from Canada, who wanted to share with me the story about her special community. She is part of a group fondly called the "Dopey Dozen." In 1939 when she was 16 years old, Doris and friends named their 'official' club. They met as children through sitting in the same row, as their names fell in alphabetical order. Who knew random chance would become a connection that would last until their dying days.

Here is a shot of the Dopey Dozen in 1940, dressed in their finest for a special dance.

They grew apart after graduation and lost touch. No email then, no Facebook. A war was at hand, and life was consuming. Years fly by, and the Dopey Dozen aged into their mid-fifties; some married, some widowed and most reported feeling lonely.

Here's the fun part. The Dopey Dozen by chance all showed up to their 35th high school reunion. Everyone had now raised their kids, and rediscovered an intense desire to share their life stories, reconnect and rebuild.

They did.

For the next 30 years straight, the Dopey Dozen met every single year. The girls had a blast, the husbands became friends, they went on cruises, and took care of each other when one got sick or died.

Here's the Dopey Dozen fifty years later in 1990. They kept going until 2005. Another 15 years AFTER this shot was taken.


How many of you are out there in your 50's or older and think it is too late to create a life long connection with other people? It's never too late to start. Having real live human beings who can become rocks of support in your life is worth every ounce of effort.

Dr. Cara Barker, a popular columnist here at Huff Po (bio here) moved to a new town and wondered how she could build a community there.
It seems there was a longing for community where all were welcome, and one which made a sacred space for celebrating what we've all been given,
she described. So, how did she do it?
In the beginning, I took out an ad in the Boulder paper, and welcomed people to Sunday Gatherings. The first S.G. had about 22 people come.
Starting with a few acquaintances, it eventually grew to over 200 people! Little did she know when she started it would grow to the size it did. What a service, both for Cara, and for the community at large.

Popular Huff Post blogger Ann Naylor (bio here) wrote:
I have enjoyed several communities: for a while I worked in the theatre in London - it was very much of a family with its own language and understanding. My church also offers a wonderful community of understanding and support. What I love about communities is they are places in which I feel safe to just be myself and to feel accepted and acknowledged.

Our own Editor-at-Large of the Living Section, Russell Bishop, (Bio Here) contemplated who makes up his 'rocks' of community:
my spiritual family, a collection of people who would never join anything, all independent types, who have in common a commitment to returning Home to our spiritual source. We walk the path together, facing Spirit, sometimes shining a bit of light on the path for each other, sometimes taking apparent detours, all the while remaining committed to expanding awareness and deepening our ability to be loving and to extend our loving to all whom we touch.

There has been a YouTube clip that has run circles over the internet, and it is still appropriate. Kelly Corrigan wrote an essay tribute to her mother and her circle of community. Instead of a "Dopey Dozen" they were called the "pigeons." If you are one of the few left who hasn't seen it; check it out as a powerful reminder of long lasting bonds to the bitter end. Even though this clip is about women, the bonds are universal.

Next week, I will begin to shift focus to our youth and some of the concerns of building cyber space communities. I will be specifically looking at the meteoric rise of Facebook and the challenges it raises for parents. Any comments? Feel free to leave them below or email me directly at

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