Got That Coffee Klatch Invite
Your Culture Study Challenge Update
A month ago, I opened the first ever Culture Study Community Challenge with the following:
I’ve written before about what it’s like to live on an island of just around 800 full-time residents. I’ve written about how community is the core of survival here, and I’ve written about the ways I’m trying to show up for my friends with kids and (my friends without kids!). I think about the hard work of community formation all the damn time. But it does not come naturally or easily to me — not at all.
You can read the rest of the post here, but the gist of it was pretty basic: I have a great small group of friends here on the island, but I have been too nervous or overthinking or whatever to really hook into the rest of the truly vibrant community on the island. I needed accountability to do the small community things that I’ve been wanting to do, and I knew a lot of you needed/wanted it too.
So back in mid-January, a whole bunch of you issued your own challenges — small ways you wanted to show up in your community and for your neighbors. I challenged myself to show up for one community event, and to go on a walk with someone I didn’t know before moving here. The plan was to reconvene in a month-ish and see how we did.
Well it’s slightly over a month-ish, and up until Friday, I was dreading writing this piece — or, at the very least, I was agonizing over how to frame it. The first community event I had planned on attending (an Owl night walk!!) was cancelled for high winds. Last week, I got really sick and had to bow out of my second planned event (I was going to be a judge at the elementary school’s math competition, which would’ve been this former mathlete’s dream). I also had to cancel my planned walk. I felt like a failure, but was going to try and narrativize it as “sometimes the best laid community plans are really, really hard to pull off.”
And you know what? I actually do believe that. Community, like friendship, takes perseverance, because life and weather and sickness happens to us all. What mattered was that I wasn’t giving up: I had signed up to go over to the Grange (basically our community center) next week and help fold the monthly Tome (newsletter) that goes to every resident of the island; I had emailed the head of the library foundation to help a fundraising campaign for a new generator. My first seeds had failed to germinate but I was planting more.
And then, unexpectedly, one sprouted early. The head of the library foundation asked if I wanted to be on the email list for the weekly coffee klatch, which rotates amongst the houses of various women on the island. You bet I did. The email for this week’s event arrived, I told myself I would go, I got nervous the morning of and tried to talk myself out of it, I felt so anxious walking up to the front door….and then of course it was just wonderful. Delightful, never awkward, full of interesting people who knew interesting things about the island, and I left unofficially signed up to be responsible for weeding one section of the library garden.
It felt great, it felt like community, and it’s exactly the first real meeting I needed in order to feel comfortable walking into so many others in the future. (Like next week! And the week after that! ) It wasn’t anything spectacular. It just made this island feel so much more like home.
So I Want To Hear From You:
If you challenged yourself to one small community thing, remind us what it is….and how did it go?
Were you frustrated, surprised, annoyed, delighted?
If you were stymied, how are thinking about it? What do you want to do now?
Maybe you didn’t explicitly challenge yourself but did do something community-building over the past month — what was that like?
And if you didn’t do a challenge last time but want to this time, I want to hear about that, too! The initial post is filled with ideas to get you started.
And thank you all for being part of this conversation, listening and commiserating and encouraging and helping us follow through on the things we actually really want to do. I wish we could be an IRL coffee clatch. I’d bring the donut holes.
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My friend left academia, and is opening up a jam store. She makes the most exquisite jams - raspberry-lavender; blood orange and amaretto; peach cardamom, so many more - and has sold them at the farmer's market for six years. Now she has an actual storefront, and it's become a community event - friends have painted the walls; her husband has installed all the shelves and a gorgeous counter; I'm working this weekend on the window displays; we're hanging art. Every time I hear a new update about the store I'm reminded of how amazing it is that a) she's brought us all together and b) is doing this brave thing that is so fun and c) how much I love being part of it. <3
I'm in a stepmom Discord. We are scattered across North America, but some of us have met in person a few times and we talk to each other daily. One stepmom's 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer in January, and they've spent many days and nights at the hospital since then. She and her family are local to me.
Mindful that "let me know if there's anything I can do" is just one more burden for the person you say that to, I just Did Some Stuff.
- offered my house, 20 min from the hospital, as a landing pad if anyone in the family ever needs it
- said "you can drop your laundry on my porch anytime" (I'm sort of on their way to the hospital)
- prepped a bunch of freezer meals and dropped them off
- rallied the stepmom Discord and volunteered to be the Receiving House for gifts that people were tripping over themselves to send (one stepmom's mom made and sent a GORGEOUS quilt!) -- then delivered gifts on a staggered cadence so we didn't overwhelm the family
- stopped by one night when my friend was "on duty" at the hospital and brought dinner
- donated to her husband's annual charity ride
Things seem to be going okay. They have support and resources and money and the best medical care. It's still awful, like a weird nightmare that has now become normal, and I say that even as, like, a tertiary-level acquaintance of the family. I can't imagine what it's like for them. I keep saying to myself, "I can't do a lot, but I can do this."