It bothers me that I find myself often saying, “Where is today’s sense of community?” I have the blessed opportunity of being able to meet people from various cultures, religions, countries and so forth. However, sometimes this opportunity creates a deep struggle within my heart. Now, I understand that I am about to generalize a whole community and I know that these comments are not true of everyone; however, I do honestly believe that it is (sadly) the vast majority. Another key point is that I do live in a city and my experiences in the city have been different, overall, than from those when I visit family/friends who live in more of a country setting where you still borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor. That being said…I’ve been asking myself, “Where is today’s sense of community?”
This thought was brought to the front of my mind today when I was driving on a very busy road outside the city. I was approaching a red light when suddenly the car in front of me stopped moving. I stepped on my breaks, thinking perhaps this was an individual who was choosing the cell phone over driving, but then I realized that was not the case. It was an elderly gentleman and his car then began to drift backwards. I slowly started to go in reverse and put on my hazards. Meanwhile, cars are approaching us and then swerving around to pass us (Exhibit A – clearly people driving backwards should be a sign something is wrong). The car continued to go backwards, but I was beginning to get nervous because we were now going backwards around a curve, where cars fly. I stopped and, of course, the gentleman’s car bumped into mine. I’m blaring on my horn, not out of anger towards him (I could clearly tell something is wrong), but rather in the hope of alerting drivers who are coming from around the bend to slow down before ramming into us (here I am somewhat freaking out because my infant is in the backseat and this is where the first point of impact would land). At this same time, there’s a continuous flow of traffic trying to maneuver around us at a fast pace (Exhibit B – many vehicles’ windows were down due to the nice weather today, would you not have yelled into my car, “hey, is everything okay?”… nope). After several minutes, I decided I had to leave the scene out of concern for my child, so I turned on my signal and a nice elderly woman let me in front of her to get around the stalled car (now this would be evidence that some people still do look out for others in their community – thank you!). I then drove forward and got on my phone to call the police to come help the guy before he gets hit, and because I believe in community, I turned my car around and parked above the scene of the disabled vehicle. An older guy did the same thing and walked ahead of me to the car that was in the middle of the road (2nd helpful community member). We tried to explain to the elderly man that he needed to get out of his car and come over on the grass because it was not safe for him to sit in the middle of the road, around a curve (Exhibit C – DOZENS of cars continued to fly around us.). We then helped the guy to get out of his car and onto the grassy area, which was a challenge because it soon became apparent that he struggled with walking and could hardly hear when one spoke to him (Exhibit D – we had to wait as several cars flew by us, even though the speed limit is 25 mph, refusing to let us walk to the grassy area). Eventually, we were able to get a car to stop and we guided the gentleman to the grass. I then agreed to wait with the man, while the other community member left. For at least ten minutes, we stood on the side of the road across from the car, waiting for the police. During this time, cars never stopped driving by – it was a steady flow with not even one car length empty at any point (Exhibit E – So many people drove by me holding up an elderly man and a car sitting in the middle of the road, and yet only ONE guy asked if we needed help; I thanked him and explained that the police were on their way). Eventually, a police officer arrived and she was able to drift the car back further to a spot where it could then be pulled off the side of the road after several attempts. During this time, one guy asked if she needed help. She declined, but we were still thankful. Nevertheless, at this same time, dozens of more cars (Exhibit F) quickly drove by us without offering to help this lady who was standing outside of the car and pushing it herself, while trying to steer it to the side. Thankfully, the whole event then ended; the car was to be towed and the officer was helping out the driver. In addition, I am VERY grateful that no one was hurt.
Yet this experience today made the word “community” race through my mind. Why did so many people drive by and not offer to help? There’s an older man in a car that is in a dangerous situation. There’s a young woman with a splint, trying to walk this man to the side of the road. There’s a smaller-built lady officer struggling to move the car alone. Yet, so many people passed by without pausing. This is our community. It is my belief that communities are strongest when they function in a manner in which individuals help one another. Community presents the opportunity to give someone who is struggling a hand-up (different from a hand-out). We can bring out the best in one another; supporting the talents and skills that each of us possess and using them to make a stronger, supportive and more loving environment for future generations. It breaks my heart to look around and see so much potential in a city. So many people who could work together to build a successful (and I don’t necessarily mean financially) community that, in turn, benefits everyone.
Regardless of the pain and anger I feel when I see communities that are broken, or simply MIA, I am grateful to still see some glimmer of hope through the people who are trying to work as a community. The people who look out for one another, not to be nosey and gossip, but rather they help out of genuine kindness. As I mentioned, I do get to engage with people from various cultures and this too gives me hope because I see that there are still areas where community is not just a term, but rather a way of life. These pieces of hope serve as encouragement to me that we do have the ability to still mend our broken communities and once again start displaying positive supports through our actions and words.
Ahmeli…that you consciously make the effort to do your part in rebuilding community.