Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Community Wrapped in Community Wrapped in Community

I wonder if Robin Williams, for one night about a week ago, felt completely alone, completely abandoned, as when Jesus on the cross "shouted in a loud voice, saying 'Eli Eli lama sabachthani?' which is, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" We cannot know this for sure. We can not even know for sure things right in front of our face.

One thing I do know, as well as a human being is able, is that I am loved and enveloped in many communities, almost swaddled in love as a newborn baby. My first community was my family, initially my mother, father, and grandparents, Cora and Connie Coughlin. And I had lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. I joke that we didn't have friends growing up--we had family, relatives. This family expanded as Denny, Mary Ellen, Kevin, and Jim were born. And it keeps expanding!

Family is still very central to me, now with Linda, Julia, Carolan, and Emily, and my two sons-in-law, Ed and Brian, and my grandchildren, Colin and Robby. We have a  big family, and it still is the bedrock of my security.

I have several other families, and these have been more "dynamic" over the years, with people flowing in and out. One of the first important ones for me was my Notre Dame classmates, especially the 35 other guys I studied abroad with in 1967-68 (in Salzburg and Innsbruck, Austria). Many of these fellows remain very close friends, with some others a bit more distant.

Another fantastic warm and loving community -- the peace activists I met when I moved to Cincinnati from Euclid in the winter of 1971. These people were Peacemakers, Catholic Workers, Quakers, and other like-minded living in and around Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Some were around my age, give or take, like Chris Cotter, Kenny Przybylski, Chuck Matthei, Jack Shereda, Peggy Scherer, Anne and Clare Weinkam, Greg Haas, Joan Levy, Bonnie Tompkins, Henry Scott, Andy Meyer, Joel Stevens, Dick Crowley, Richard Gale, John Luginbill (and others), and some were "elders" like Ernest and Marion Bromley, Maurice McCrackin (Mac), Bill Wahler--and several more. Some of my Peacemaker friends have died--Chuck Matthei, Ernest, Marion, Mac, Kenny, Jack, Bill. But I remain close friends with many, despite living far away from them.

Another layer of community consists of my colleagues at Lakeland Community College. Many of these are professors and fellow members of our union, the Lakeland Faculty Association. But there are also plenty of staffers, administrators, and part-timers that I consider part of my work community.

And then there is one of the most wonderful, sustaining communities I belong to, at my church, St. Mary's in Painesville, Ohio, especially the people I work with in the Karpos Ministry to feed the hungry and homeless--Linda, Kathy and Dan Philipps, Pam, Judy, Ken Fitzsimmons, Chuck Hillier, Jim, Bernice, Karen, Jeff, Kathy Flora, and many others. We have found a common focus for our interests in social justice and we have found a common and important task. It is almost exhilarating to work together with these folks every week. This is a model of the Beloved Community that Martin Luther King and Maurice McCrackin spoke of!

There are other communities I prize--my Irish-Gaelic classmates, my Irish traditional music friends, and many others.

These communities sustain me, and I hope I that I can do a small part to sustain, nourish, and love my friends in these communities. Let them never, not for an hour, feel unloved and unappreciated. This is my prayer.

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