Slashed Tires, A Dead Pig, and the Meaning of Community

15 Jul

Today as my supervisor Karen and I were driving in the car, she looked at me, grabbed my arm, and said, “how can I miss you so much when you’re sitting right here?” That sentence pretty much sums up what I’ve been feeling since I flipped my calendar into July. The month I have been dreading since August—the month I say goodbye to my current home—has come. I knew it was coming, my brain has constantly been aware that my time here is finite, but judging by my emotions these last two weeks, my heart missed the memo that said I’d have to say goodbye.

A lot has happened in the last few weeks, both in the world I belong to and the world within me. Although I must admit, as I am learning to become more present, the two are becoming indistinguishable, as everything on the outside undoubtedly affects everything on the inside. I was reminded of this once again when I learned a deep lesson during two of the most unprecedented situations in these last few weeks.

On July 3rd Kim and I decided to try our hands at another road trip and take an overnighter to D.C. It was spontaneous and albeit a little impulsive, but isn’t every good adventure? My heart overflows when I think of the offers that came pouring in when we needed a place to stay with only a day’s notice—never lose faith in the world, friends, because hospitality is everywhere and generosity truly abounds. We had a great trip to the District on Thursday, jam-packed with American spirit and spirits. We were living in colors, and they were red, white, and blue. We woke up to a shock, however, when we found two slashed tires on Kim’s beloved Cream-Filling (yeah, that’s her car). And when I mean slashed, I mean someone had it in for the great state of Wisconsin, because that was no accident. So, after four hours, numerous phone calls, just a few tears, and a tow ride in our pajamas later (sidenote—the tow truck driver thought we were from Sweden…I mean, I guess?), we had two new tires and were on our way.
During the process of making Cream-Filling drivable once again, I felt like a helpless bystander. Though Kim and I were in this adventure together, there was not much I could do to help her coordinate with her parents or navigate her insurance company. As much as I willed it so, I couldn’t fix the tires. I couldn’t do anything, really—but I did know one thing. I sure as hell wasn’t going to leave Kim’s side through it all. I was painfully there through every frustrating conversation, closed auto body shop, and influx of information (“I’m sorry, you just said a lot of things. What??”). There were no actions, ideas, or even words that could help the situation—I could only hope that my presence could do something to ease the tension.

roadtrip

(This is from our road trip to the Burgh, but it’s the only picture I have of Cream-Filling, the star of the show!)

art

Fast-forward one weekend. This last Saturday the community went out to a pig roast at a local farm (though, given its lack of animals (except a dead pig) according to Joy it was most definitely NOT a farm). We played picnic games, ate delicious food, and had some good conversation. Everything about the event screamed a great time. But, as I’m learning, sometimes our emotions take the wheel instead of our logic, and I was just not having it. I had failed to address some things that were bothering me, and that night they took control and I shut down. Like, walking zombie shut down. I couldn’t wait to get home and close out the world with one slam of my bedroom door.

pig

But, of course, my community wasn’t about to let me fight my negative emotions alone, and multiple people came in to help me gain some semblance of balance. I didn’t know what I needed (I’m still learning this game where we tell people what we need and they give it to us…fascinating concept, letting other people in), so I couldn’t tell them what to do to help. Some chose to give me space but make sure I knew they had my back, which I am grateful for. But Kim wouldn’t let me off that easy. She sat down next to me, grabbed my hand, and told me we were in it together, and she was not going to leave my side. And she didn’t. She just stayed. And though I didn’t know I needed it, it was the best gift I could have received. And, in that moment, I thought back to the slashed tires, and I realized what community has taught me.

Community isn’t about what you do, say or give to another. It’s about presence. It’s about being invested in other people’s lives. It’s about saying to another person “if you aren’t okay, then I’m not okay either.”

I have grown connected to these people by more than a shared program, a house, or a shared stipend. I’ve grown to believe that my well-being is so inextricably connected with theirs that it physically hurts my heart to back away. I guess that’s love, and it means this experience has taught me to love more deeply than I ever thought possible.

And I’m okay with that.

kayak

(The community (minus Chris and Wes) on a kayak adventure last week)

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