I have been thinking a lot about neighbors. And community. Set off down this thought path by a conversation with a friend and an unshakable yearning for the peripatetic lifestyle that makes me anxious about settling down and staying in place.
The conversation, though, was about relationships, particularly the relationships we have that we are oddly somehow unaware of. In a sense, I have a more real relationship with our mailman––who knows our names and will walk up three flights of stairs to leave packages at our door so they are safer––than I do with the hundred or so people I went to high school with that I am friends with on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. I know who they’re dating and where they went on vacation but I am not a part of their lives.
You can have a lot of friends, connections, people you grab a drink with when you’re back in a place you used to be with them. And these people are truly friends. Necessary and valuable and not to be taken for granted in any way because they are the people who remind you who you are and were.
But your community is something else.
This is difficult because I adamantly subscribe to the “once a friend, always a friend” philosophy, as well as the “a friend’s friend is a friend” way of thinking. And I think this is true (and I hope my friends––past, present, and future––know this; my house is always open and I am always interested in getting a cup of coffee). But community––community is different.
Community is a joyful obligation to the people whose lives we are invested in. If you want any joy out of it or if you desire that joy for others, then it has to be consistent and inescapable. It is also necessary and the most fulfilling investment we humans can make.