This past weekend I came across a interesting article by Jenny Anderson. She talked about her brother who had given up the glamour of life in New York City and settled his family in boring small town suburbia. What was this drab life of little league and kid parties, compared with the exciting urban world of museums, galleries, and theater? She admittedly looked down on his choices a bit. At least until her brother's struggle and eventual death from cancer.
What she found was that her brother had thrived in a community that he had built for himself and his family. He had built his community literally, through his work as an architect, and figuratively, through his involvement with his neighbors, their families, and their lives. It is as she moves into his world to help care for him that she realizes the power and importance of what is so absent from her own life. The friend who quietly picks up her brother' s children and feeds them at her home. The neighbor who drops off a hot meal when her sister-in-law is at the hospital. The people everywhere who come out to help before they are asked. They lend a hand, sit by her brother's bed, and offer her a reassuring hug. This is community.
We have the appearance of community through social media, and we can tell ourselves that it is real community, but it isn't. Real community only happens in real life. Research shows that people today, although they may be connected to hundreds of "friends" on Facebook, are lonelier than ever before. On-line communication offers social contact, but it does not provide us with social support humans need to survive.
Interestingly, more social engagement isn't really the fix. According to loneliness researcher, John Cacioppo, when we are lonely, "...our brains can turn in on ourselves, causing us to and retreat into self-preservation mode and be on high alert for social threats. This naturally makes people engage less and feel even more lonely." What helps, he says, is opening up, giving and receiving help, and focusing on connecting with others.
It's not easy to do - opening up, giving and receiving help, and finding a way to connect, but as knitters, we have an edge. You see, knitters are naturally nosy. In the yarn store, we'll happily ask another about her yarn, project, or pattern. And she's happy to tell us. We're happy to approach a perfect stranger and ask about the sweater she's wearing, the pattern, and the construction. Women who might be intimidating at the Starbucks or in a different social setting, are fair game at the yarn shop. We're all here, and we're all part of the club, just by being there. It's like a sorority you didn't have to rush. You belong because you choose to. Conversations about knitting move easily into other topics, and those interactions become relationships and the whole thing is community. Real community.
If you're reading this, I hope you already feel included and know that there is always a seat at the table or on the couch whenever you need a little knitting company. If you are new and wondering how to connect, stop by Wednesday evenings from 6-8 and work on your project. Or join one of our knitalongs. There will be a bunch of people doing the same project, ready to help and be helped. However, you choose to connect with us, please do, because, as you know, you are always welcome here.