Last week, the son of a neighbor-friend committed suicide. This post isn't about that, as sad and frustrating as the event has been. Rather, this is a story about community.
Our friend lives a couple houses up the street from us and is a professor at the university. His son was a student and a member of a fraternity. From the moment our friend got the news, the university community came together to help. Fellow faculty members got him sedated and took him to the home of another professor in our neighborhood. Grad students offered to take over his classes and have stayed at his house in shifts so he wouldn't have to be alone. Those of us who live in the neighborhood have paid visits, taken him out for coffee, offered to walk the dogs, and made sure all the little details of life have been taken care of.
The memorial service was today at the university chapel, and the place was standing room only. Afterward, we attended a reception at a professor's home here in our neighborhood. There were a lot of faculty members I didn't know, since I primarily work with staff, but when they found out I worked for the university and lived in the neighborhood, their eyes lit up and I knew they saw me as a member of the club.
I mention all this because I don't think I've ever seen a real community in action before now, and I find it fascinating. I've sensed the community spirit since Dan and I first moved here, and we all banded together in mutual cleanup after Hurricane Ike, but this is different. This is the community coming together to care for one of its own in a way I never saw in the suburban churches and neighborhoods of my youth or the workplaces of my pre-university years. This is community as family and protector, community as provider and loving friend. This is a warm blanket on a cold winter night.
We humans lost something important when we left our tribes and villages for the cities. We have gained in myriad ways, and I'll always be a city girl, but our ancestors knew something that we've lost sight of: we need our community. We need each other.