What does the word “Community” mean to you? While there are many definitions, depending on the context, the one that rings most true to my opinion on the term is similar to this one found in the Oxford dictionary:
“A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
Back in my college years, I served as an Orientation Leader at the beginning of each fall semester. One thing I always recommended to my group of new students was to find at least one group or activity to get involved in. Whether that be sports, drama, music, student activities or whatever, just get involved; make some new friends. The reason I always recommended this was because I firmly believe it’s what helps bridge the gap between being a high schooler living under house rules to being a semi-independent college student who is also learning how to make their own rules. I believe it helps to relieve stress to have other things to occupy their minds when they need a break from studying as well as relieve the loneliness that comes when stepping out of the “nest” for the first time; because, as much as they always say they can’t wait to get out on their own, it’s still a reality check when they suddenly realize they are solely responsible for themselves. Life is hard and I think college is the time where we start to realize that.
Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief. – Marcus Tullius Cicero
The funny thing is, as an adult moving to a foreign country, I’m seeing parallels to those college years. I moved to a new place where I knew absolutely no one except my husband and daughter (in college I had one friend from my high school). I didn’t know anything about the island other than the info we received on our brief tour during Matt’s interview (I knew nothing at all about Athens, WV). I had a hard time putting myself “out there” in college to make new friends, instead relying on my one friend from home to introduce me to others. I worked at the same job for sixteen and a half years because I felt comfortable there and was afraid to venture out and try new things (it helped that I loved working there even if it also allowed me to remain a recluse). Here, I’ve been relying on Matt to introduce me to people that he’s met already. I’m here with all of these highly educated people from all over the world and I feel sub-par even though I have a Master’s degree of my own. I’m now starting to realize that I haven’t been following my own advice and that has caused me to feel more isolated here than necessary. I also realized that I’m selling myself short. I’m an intelligent woman who gave up her career to support her husband. There’s no fault to be found in that and it doesn’t make me less of a person. I need to stop thinking that it does. Feeling that way is not a good example for me to be setting for my daughter.
Earlier in the summer, I volunteered to help head the PTA for Kylie’s school. I’ve never been a part of any PTA before so this has all been new to me and I’m learning as I go. I’ve also been volunteering and attending events at the Prep school to show Kylie that I support her as well as to show her how to get involved by helping others. Just recently, the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis celebrated the 31st anniversary of its independence from Great Britain. Kylie learned what the colors of the Saint Kitts flag stand for and also learned the words to the federation’s national anthem (which she has been singing to me and Matt in the car on the way to school each day). The school spent the week learning all about the history and culture of Saint Kitts and Nevis and ended the week with a celebration that included local foods, a performance by traditional clowns (not circus clowns), a steel drum band, and stilt-walkers. What an awesome way to learn about the country we now call home.
I’m also trying to get Kylie involved in activities outside of school so that she can learn to be confident on her own terms and learn how to be part of a community. One of our recent activities as a family was to participate in the Annual Saint Christopher Children’s Home 2K Walk/5K Run Benefit that was held at The Royal Saint Kitts Golf Club this past Saturday. This was our first time attending this annual event and the sense of pride in the community was evident. There were walkers and runners from very young toddlers barely walking to the elderly who came out to support the mission of the children’s home. Kylie was so excited to see all of her friends from Ross Prep there with their families. Everywhere we turned, we saw someone we knew; something I wasn’t sure was possible just a few months ago. While we were walking, she looked up at me and asked me why we were there that day (since it was something that we’ve never done before) and I explained to her that we were helping to raise funds and awareness for children who didn’t have families of their own who could take care of them. She thought about that for a moment and then, like most four year olds, said, “Oh, I thought we were here to get prizes”. I could see how she would think that since her only experiences so far with large crowds have been at amusement parks and carnivals where there are games to play and prizes to be won. So I told her that there was a prize and that was that we were helping someone else who didn’t have the things we have so that maybe they could have nice things too. I told her that it is important to help others when we can because that’s what friends and neighbors do. She thought that was really cool.
So far in this journey we have met some amazing people and made some great friends. After nine months it’s finally starting to feel like home. Over the years I’m sure we’ll lose touch with some of them but I hope that we’ve made some friendships that will stand the test of time and distance. My hope is for Kylie to have those true long-lasting friendships as well. They are important. Human beings are meant to be social creatures even if we are reluctant to venture out. During my life, I’ve made some of those true friends and I’ll be forever thankful that they are in my life. They’ve helped make me who I am and being able to reflect on the good things they brought to my life has helped me take this path I’m travelling now.
This is a great quote about friendship.
Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over. – Octavia Butler