I had a glorious weekend the past couple of days. How about you?
For me, it wasn’t just that the weather was ideal and my neighborhood was alive with all the signs of spring–birds singing, colorful blossoms in the air and on the ground, that special spring green color of brand-new leaves, or the people outside enjoying walking in the sunshine. It wasn’t even the fact that my son and I had a break from the demanding academics deadlines that have seemed to be constantly looming over us for the past two months.
Looking back, my weekend was so great because it was one big ongoing celebration of community.
Community is one of those words that mean a lot of different things to different people. To me, it is best summarized by a couple of lines from a beloved ’80s sitcom that promised a half-hour glimpse into a place:
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
As we went through our lives this weekend, I realized how lucky my son and I are to have not just one, but multiple communities to support us–and how easy it is to take that for granted.
It began Friday night, when we sent on Cary’s Final Friday, also known as the Cary Art Loop–a night where galleries, Town of Cary facilities, and other commercial places that showcase local artist stay open late for art lovers to wander from place to place and see the latest exhibits. It is fairly informal, so I’ve been taking my son to these from a relatively early age (like 8 or 10), when he started showing a real interest in making art his career. Not only has he been exposed to years of contemporary art, the artists have been so generous about answering his questions about their works, explaining their visions or inspirations, talking about how to work in different media, etc.
Now when we go, in addition asking about their art, we quiz them for advice that an aspiring young artist show know. They talk to us about what colleges might be good for him, what courses he should take outside of the Art department, and other steps for getting started as an artist. And when he wanders away to look at some art piece, they smile at me and say, “I remember when he was only so high,” with their hands about waist level. Plus, as we visit different sites, we see different friends: one of our local librarians, a neighbor, one of his art teachers, a friend from our spiritual center.
I didn’t think about it at the time when got started 10 years ago, but what a wonderful community for my son to have in a world that often communicates “You can’t make any money doing art,” or “Have a career and make money first, and you can do your art when you retire” or “It’s just not PRACTICAL.” But the local Cary art community supports his dream of making a living doing what he loves.
Then on Saturday morning, we had the seasonal re-opening of one of my favorite communities: The Cary Downtown Farmers Market. That is a community that I truly depend upon, because think about it: what relationship is more intimate than the people who are providing the healthy, non-GMO, non-pesticide-laden food that I’m feeding to my growing son and family? Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface, Inc. farm and food activist who is a spokesperson for the movement towards environmentally responsible, ecologically beneficial, sustainable agriculture and meat production, says the key to knowing whether your food is truly healthy is the transparency of the farmer/producer. At the Market, local farmers cheerfully answer all sort of questions about their products, their methods of growing/production, their treatment of animals, their philosophy towards food. They show us pictures of their happy, free-ranging animals and abundant fields and invite us to visit and to check things out for ourselves (which we have done with a few of them).
Over the years, they, too, have seen my son grow from a boy into a young man–fueled by their good food, of course. Likewise, I inquire about their children or grandchildren, their spouses, or their ailing mothers. So it feels almost like family…a happy, non-toxic, mutually-supportive family. My friends tell me about the great bargains at big discount stores, but I just tell them that I’m committed to buying everything I can at the Farmers Market, and I only go to the grocery stores to get what I can’t find there. I know that what I get at the Farmers Market is better for our bodies and also better for our planet, since it involves much less packaging, pesticides, and fossil fuel burned for long-distance transportation. So that’s where I buy as much as I possibly can.
Thus, when I seem them all again after being closed from December through March (except for a few diehards that, thank goodness, brave the colds to sell us meat or a narrow range of winter vegetables), it really is a community celebration for me.
But this Saturday was an extra-special celebration, because the downtown Cary merchants were hosting a Discover Cary Downtown fundraiser. For a donation of $5 to the Kay Yow Foundation to fight women’s cancer, people got to walk (in the gorgeous weather) from downtown business to business, collecting raffle tickets for some fabulous prizes donated by all the local merchants. This enabled us to visit our favorite local bakery, favorite restaurants, favorite theater…all the business we try to support as part of our belief in buying local. But it also introduced us to businesses I had never frequented before, like local lawyers and builders and photographers and such, all of whom were lovely people who provide services I might need at some point. So once again, I saw it as a building of community. (Plus, not to gloat or anything, but my son and I won SEVERAL prizes with a combined value of about $300 from some of our favorite places. So WOO HOO! That’s a lot to celebrate as well!).
But that was just Saturday morning! Saturday afternoon, a friend came over and we went to the Mid-Town Square Spring Festival, sponsored by the USA Today-appointed “Best New Brewery of 2017,” Bond Brothers Beer Company. When I wrote previously about this prestigious award for our local brewery, I mentioned how community oriented they were, and this festival is one example. The free festival, which ran from noon to 10 PM, featured several blocks of food trucks and other vendors, music from bands, some art activities, some children’s activities, and beer (and other liquids) flowing freely. It was a chance to bring people together, to give exposure to some local artists and musicians and businesses, and for the citizens of Cary to celebrate the brewery that just put us on the craft beer map. Again, I ran into other friends, other acquaintances, making it another opportunity to connect to people with whom my life overlaps.
Sunday morning is the time we regularly attend the service at our local spiritual center, which epitomizes the concept of community. Whenever we go, we exit our car and are immediately embraced, both literally and figuratively. Our Senior Minister is just the most loving person ever; I can’t imagine there is anyone that she doesn’t get along with. Our Assistant Minister is not only a great speaker and teacher, but is also a musician. Sunday morning, he was playing a duet with a woman who is one of the co-directors of our Music Program.
For yesterday’s program, she had repurposed a song by Michael Bublé to make it a little less romantically-focused and more of our higher selves encouraging us when we get down on ourselves. But it really touched my heart, because I realized that it captured what I felt about the communities that I experienced this weekend.
So what was the song? you might be wondering. “I Believe in You.”
And that’s what I’ve been feeling from all these people this weekend. I felt like what they were all saying, through their actions if not their words (except for the singers, of course), was that they believed in me, in my success, in my health, in my happiness and well-being, in my own dreams and my dreams for my son. And I, in turn, was saying the same thing back: I believe in their businesses, in their food, in their beer, in their art, in their dreams, their success, them being more tomorrow than they are today.
Which is a pretty wonderful way to live, if you think about it. I just had to get conscious about all the support around me.
So today’s post is in appreciation for all my communities, some of which interconnect, some of which don’t. Thanks to everyone who is a part of one or more, because it fills my heart to know I am surrounded by people who believe in me.
Plus, now I have another song besides an ’80s theme song to play in my head when I think about community!