#38 – Dick Bernard: Seeing Community (it's all around us)
Last night I was at a celebration dinner for an organization, World Citizen http://www.peacesites.org . World Citizen is a good group to get to know. It’s Mission Statement: “Empower the Education Community to Promote a Just and Peaceful World.”
At the celebration, one of my table mates was a new acquaintance, Abby, irrepressible, four years old, an aspiring ballerina with a tee-shirt to match: a ballerina dress and ballerina shoes on the front.
Abby was the only small person at the meeting, a fact she doubtless noticed. Her great-grandpa, Lynn Elling, who founded World Citizen in 1982, got up to speak. Lynn, now 88, still strong in voice and vision and ideas, remembered again how he began his quest for world peace, for the children of the world. He remembered being a young officer on an LST, arriving at Tarawa beachhead some weeks after the carnage there in November, 1943. He remembered walking on the beach, finding the horrific remains of some Japanese soldiers killed by napalm; he remembered GIs bringing back remnants of the battle: clothing, skulls, etc. It was there his life changed, and his commitment to peace for coming generations was sealed.
Abby danced around a bit. At one point she said a bit too loudly that great-grandpa’s speech was “boring”, though that certainly didn’t change her obvious love for great-grandpa. Such is how it is for youngsters. For Abby, dancing was much more fun than listening to a speech!
A little later in the program, Rebecca Janke, herself a grandmother, who’d been awarded the Outstanding World Citizen award, rose to speak. Lynn’s memories brought back her own: her father, she said, was also in WWII, and one of his duties was to put dead bodies in body bags. He never really recovered from the trauma of that duty. His war-time experience haunted him his entire life. He was one of those countless uncounted casualties of war.
The program over, I reflected on the last few days which were full of “community” kinds of experiences: people, often unknown to each other, getting together for one reason or another. The organizing mantra: “food, fun and family” usually identifies essential components of these successful events, small and large.
Last Thursday, for instance, in the afternoon I was at a gathering to recognize volunteers at an elementary school in a nearby suburb. I met, there, a lady who likes to dress up in costumes, and read to first graders. My grandkids go to that school. Thursday, the kids had to wait while the elders had first pick at the assorted goodies…the storyteller knew this wait was excruciating for the tykes, and parcelled out some of the M&Ms in a dish at our table.
A couple of hours later, I was with about 30 parents of school age kids who have organized a growing organization to lobby for adequate support for public education – a difficult issue these days. These were people who truly care about the future for the Abby’s of the world, their own and others. http://www.parentsunited.org .
There were other events as well, before and in between, which basically helped, once again, to define “community” for me.
“Community” is all of us together, working for a common good.
A final note on World Citizen, whose celebration I attended last night: I first attended its annual celebration just two years ago. I went there on a whim, when I heard about it at another meeting I had just attended.
At that celebration, the same Lynn Elling got up to speak, and led us in a rendition of a song John Denver made memorable in the 1960s: “Last Night I had the Strangest Dream”, (ca 1950 Ed McCurdy). I was hooked.
The song, sung by John Denver, and Lynn Ellings dream, live on at http://www.amillioncopies.info . Take moment to visit. And, again, visit http://www.peacesites.org.
And speaking of “food” and community, here’s a gift recipe received yesterday from a friend:
Carol’s Caramel Corn (use big kettle)
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light syrup
2 sticks oleo (margarine)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Stir/boil for 5 minutes
1 teaspoon soda
Pour over 5 quarts popcorn. Mix.
Put on cookie sheets and bake at 250 degrees for 45 minutes.
Dump out. Break apart.
(The recipe doesn’t say what to do after it’s prepared. I guess I can figure that out!)
As I read your posting on community, and as I always do now, I reflected back on the definition of “community” I came upon some years ago. You came close to quoting it. It is: “Community means accepting that we belong together.”
With yesterday’s hate crime at the Holocaust Museum, I reflected yet again on the “accepting” part of that definition. Community is not only all of us together, but the “accepting” of all of us belonging together.