Lately I’ve been thinking about the meaning of community. What is community? Why does it matter? Is it an overused concept to play down our society’s individualism? Author Ram Dass says as Americans “we’re so focused on separateness that we’ve lost interconnectedness, and the inherent gregarious nature of humanity where we need others to give us meaning.” According to novelist Barbara Kingsolver “there’s no shame in depending on each other. There’s heroism in ordinariness and connectedness and using relationship skills to get through difficult times, as opposed to the isolated heroism of the cowboy.” To me community means belonging to a larger whole. It means giving my 99-year-old friend Walter a ride to the doctor, driving my neighbor Nancy to Fincher’s Auto to pick up her car or calling to check in on a friend to find out why he hasn’t been at the Flying Goat lately.
In Healdsburg we are a group of mostly ordinary citizens who work, raise children, take care of our aging parents and, hopefully, enjoy the abundance of what this unique land produces. In the ten years I’ve lived here I see how much our community cares; whether its kids, cancer or animal causes, and I feel at peace living in this charming town. I feel connected when a friend or acquaintance yells out a hearty “hello.” as I walk downtown. I feel like a part of a larger community when I work with jazz fest enthusiasts to raise enough money so the annual festival won’t shut down. And I know I can count on my neighbors and friends to be there for me. We watch out for each other.
Last December my neighbor, Robin Bowman, was not acting like his usual cheery self. Two neighbors, Heidi & Garrick, noticed Robin’s odd behavior and thought maybe he had a stroke and tried to get him to the doctor but he resisted their efforts. Yet they persisted and immediately drove him to Healdsburg General Hospital. Within 24 hours Robin was at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco having an emergency operation to remove a brain tumor. During the month he was in the hospital, Heidi & Garrick visited Robin twice; Shannon & Stuart sent cards and cupcakes (to-die-for Flour Girl cupcakes); and many neighbors, some who don’t know him well, called him at the hospital wishing him a speedy recovery. Robin acknowledges that if it were not for those “pushy” neighbors, he might not have made it. “I was trying to say something to Garrick but I couldn’t. I knew what I wanted to say in my head but the words wouldn’t come out.” Robin’s prognosis was grim and we heard that he would probably have chemotherapy treatments after his brain surgery. Knowing Robin had no family nearby, the neighbors automatically agreed to take turns driving him to doctor’s appointments and cooking his meals. After spending over a month in the hospital, Robin, with tears in his eyes, tells me about his first day home. Neighbors came over in droves. Kelly brought him applesauce, Jutta brought over a couple of dinners. Crystal, who lives a few doors down, said “I’m making hamburgers tonight. Would you like to join us?” Robin, smiling broadly, told me he said “hell, yes!” He’s glad to be back home in his community and with his “family.”
A Healdsburg organization that “walks the talk” about community is Parkpoint Health and Swim Club. One of their longtime members, Chrissi Brunkow, has mesothilioma, an uncommon disease that causes malignant cancer cells to form within the lining of the chest, abdomen, or around the heart. On March 2nd, 4–6 pm, Parkpoint’s instructors Lilli Inman, Kris Freewoman, Erik Cardenas and Evelyn Looney, will lead a Zumba-thon to raise funds for a special treatment that can help Chrissi. Many Parkpoint staff, members and their friends will come to dance in support of Chrissi. Why don’t you join them? If you can’t make it, drop off a donation to Niamh Winlow at Parkpoint. On March 17th from 11am-3pm, Parkpoint’s Masters Swim Coach Dan Greaves and member Mike Adams will supervise a swim-a-thon in the pool to raise money for the Healdsburg Boys and Girls Club and the Healdsburg Food Pantry. Call Parkpoint at (707) 385-2500 for more info.
Ordinary people helping each other, depending on each other, providing connection and support. This is community. This is the Healdsburg community.