It’s a word and a concept that’s been on my mind lately — which is pretty amusing, actually. I often say the older I get, the more I like to stay in my yard and not deal with people — which is difficult to do, since I’m a school social worker. In fact, I often joke that I’m an anti-social worker.
The truth, however, is that community is important to me. I think it’s important to all of us. As humans, we need to belong, to feel connected — even if only to commiserate about the crazy weather. (As an aside, I would just like to say that in the past two weeks, my part of the world has endured a hurricane, a nor’easter, snow, and — today — Spring-like temperatures. My heart says, “Go out and start planting.” My brain says, “Are you crazy? It’s November!”)
This past week, I returned to my work community. For seven days, schools on Long Island were closed as a result of Sandy. Some schools in the devastated towns remain closed.
As the teachers and students walked into the building, there was a constant hum of the same questions: “How did you make out?” “Do you have power?” “Do you need anything?” And then the conversations began.
Fortunately, the town where I work only suffered tree damage and power outages. There wasn’t any flooding. Several teachers, though, lost their homes. One colleague shared photos of his home, which was located on a canal. When the storm surge occurred, a dock broke free and smashed through the first floor of his home.
With the fine crevices of his hands still stained with mud, he explained that the most difficult part was watching his stuff lined up by the curb — only to have a town’s payloader scoop everything up and drop it all into a truck. The bright spot, he added, was the strength and support of his community.
I also heard the story of several of our varsity football players putting on their team jerseys and driving to the next town, which is home to their football rivals. There, they entered a church and served food to people who, on any given weekend, would be cheering their defeat. A new community was born, if even for a few moments.
I spoke to a woman who lives in Long Beach, one of the hardest hit communities on Long Island. She runs an agency in a nearby school district that was also devastated, and she was asked to organize a fundraiser for that community. When asked what my school could contribute, her response was immediate:
- Winter coats and clothing, especially for children.
- School supplies.
- Gift cards for local supermarkets and box stores.
- Cleaning supplies, especially plastic gloves and garbage bags.
- Pet foods, since many of the local animal shelters have been overrun with strays and pets that cannot be housed in emergency shelters.
Sandy has proven that communities matter, that we need them, that we need each other.
I often worry that as our world has become techno-rich, there is greater risk that we disconnect from one another. And then I marvel at the wonders of Facebook and Twitter and other social media outlets. I also read your comments, your thoughts, your prayers, your well wishes, and your offers of help. Cathyann Burgess suggested some additional links for donations.
- American Red Cross
- Catholic Charities
- Robert R. McCormick Foundation
- Salvation Army New York
- Salvation Army New Jersey
- American Humane Association
- North Shore Animal League
- Additional Resources
We may not live near each other (although I like to think that we do), but we do live in one of the largest communities ever created. And we manage to make this place warm and personal — and I, for one, am very, very thankful to be able to add this blogging community to the list of communities to which I belong.
Thank you for your help.