Monday, March 27, 2006

Yin and Yang of a Close Community

Yesterday, I was thinking about a quiet evening at home, but my wife announced that we had other plans. Saturday was the date of the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department ham and oyster roast. Volunteer departments are essential in areas and this one is well staffed with skilled retirees, including several retired CIA agents as well as 'locals'. There are two ham and oyster roasts a year, plus several breakfasts and other events. Fund raising is an ongoing activity.

At such events, like events at the local Ruritan Club, the Leeds Church Applefest, the house warming for our habitat house and the joint gospel sing, combining choirs from the three churches – one Episcopal; two Baptist – on Leads Manor road, one experiences community tangibly. Saturday night, at several tables, there were three and even four generations of the same family sitting together. People are cordial to newcomers, but it takes time to be accepted. There is a warmth and informality to interactions that is all-too-rarely encountered in Washington. Families are close, with several generations occupying the same pew at Leeds church. I experience the same – or even closer – ties in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where my connections to some families span nearly two decades.

I am not speaking of paradise. Close communities, too, can have their dark side. Families can know too much about each other, about dark secrets that are masked bright facades of cordiality. The Leeds Church parking lot is overfull during divine services. But it is equally full during the weekly meetings of Alcoholics’ Anonymous. People can be gossipy, critical and judgmental. The bonds that embrace, can also exclude.

Which is to say that close communities, like close families, mirror the yin and yang of the human beings that comprise them – and of the human condition.


Post a Comment

<< Home