I have been reflecting on the importance of community and how it brings such joy and happiness to our everyday lives. We don't need expert studies to remind us that people need people, from the cradle to the grave. We have lived in the same neighborhood for 30 years, and have watched with interest as people move away, and new generations move in. What has remained steady though is the desire to connect with others and how these relationships grow over time. We have always enjoyed the benefits of neighbors being directly involved in our day to day lives. I don't know if this is typical behavior "outside" (of Alaska) or if it is a characteristic of living in a fairly extreme environment. There are five families in our neighborhood that consistently use social networking (Facebook) to announce gatherings, celebrate birthdays and showers, or just simply inform about the road conditions (sometimes we get "snowed" in). Community is created in part by the need to share, and to ward off cabin fever over the long winter months; and in the summer, when everyone is engaged in outside activities (even after work, the sun shines until midnight), people come out of the woodwork! We have turned into surrogate grandparents to a family with four children in our neighborhood. When my husband snowplows their driveway, he is rewarded with a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. They host potlucks and bonfires with music by amateur guitar pickers; we exchange vegetables after a summer's harvest, have game nights, hike and ski and mush dogs together, watch over eachother's homes and animals when we go on vacations, and just plain enjoy eachother's company. What I like most is the melding of generations, from little kids to folks in their 60's and 70's. Who has time...with work and raising kids, who has time to engage with their neighbors? Subtract the 4+ hours/day spent watching TV and suddenly there's time to knock on a neighbor's door and introduce oneself.
I've just learned of the Happiness Project from friends via cyberspace; and of course, one of the most predominant factors in creating happiness is spending time with friends. Click on happiness-project.com to learn more and start a happiness project in your circle of relationships.
I'm memorizing a poem each month, and for Feb. I've chosen partial phrases from two that touched me:
The Days of Our Years by J.F. Nims
It's brief and bright, dear children;
bright and brief
Delight's the lightening; the long thunder's grief
The Mandate by St. Thomas Aquinas
Because of my compassion the sun wanted to be near me all night,
and the earth deeded her fields to me, and all in heaven said,
"We have voted you our governor; tell us your divine mandate."
And I did, and God will never revoke it:
Nothing in existence is turned away.
What is the relationship here? I like the "sound" of the days of our years; how brief in this short lifetime is the delight as well as the grief; and if we were to take a deep breath and think of the moments of our days, how ever fleeting still. In addition to the interpretation that no creature is turned away from the light of the Divine, I think of our responsibility to stay present and connected to ALL that is presented to us...the joys and sorrows, difficulties and delights, giving them equal weight and attention. All of this takes great vigilance, I know, but the cost of staying awake with a open heart is after all, the purpose of the journey.
Here's a lovely quote by Yeats: "Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure or this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing."