Thursday, September 4, 2014


I am fond of saying that one of the things that interests me the most when I become engaged in an activity is the opportunity to create and participate in a community. I use that term in the context of this definition:
a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
As a biologist I also like this definition because of its emphasis on interdependency.
a group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat.
Following through on the first thought, here's a definition of fellowship:
friendly association, especially with people who share one's interests.
I am most interested in the effect of fellowship on the ability of people to achieve specific goals, and, in the reverse, the way in which shared goals can create friendly associations.

I have participated in a lot of communities but I have been thinking about one, in particular, during the week leading up to my surgery. That is the group of people who committed themselves to cycling the Cabot Trail in 2012, even though they had never dreamt of doing so and were not initially prepared in terms of fitness, cycling skills or mental attitude. Through the course of the summer they were brought together by their shared goals. They trained and ate and partied together. By the time we were ready to ride the Trail, a definite community had evolved.

On a day in late August I stood with them in the parking lot of a motel in Cheticamp, Nova Scotia. Within the hour they were going to tackle the first of three significant climbs, up grades that they had never before experienced. As I addressed the group I knew that none of them would have gotten to that place on their own. And I knew that the group would provide support that they couldn't receive from anyone else. At the end of the day, and in the months to come, our community would also help its members put their successes and failures into perspective. 

I have been reflecting on what they must have been feeling on that morning. By rights, they should have felt fear or at least anxiety. While I am certain that there was a small measure of those feelings they were mostly upbeat, confident and light-hearted. They had done as much preparation as they could and were going to rely on our small community for everything else.

I feel much the same way about my pending surgery. People have been asking me if I am afraid or nervous. I am not. Someone just asked what I am feeling. My answer was 'prepared'. I have done everything I can do and I will rely on my community of friends and medical staff to get me up the hill. They share my goal to emerge healthy and happy and  are working alongside me to ensure that we achieve that end.

This week I was I inducted into another community. One of the people who stood in that parking lot came to the house with a gift for me. It was a quilt which was given to her five years ago when she too had an encounter with cancer. The maker asked that it be passed along to someone who needed support, as I do now. I will use and care for it and will wrap myself in the community it represents and then I will give it to someone else who needs what only other people can offer.

  1. Doesn't it seem that Tolkien should have called the first book of his trilogy The Community of the Rings - shared goal, and all that.

No comments:

Post a Comment