Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Anatomy of a Community

How Many Books Does it Take to Write an 82 page paper?
Many more, it turns out. 
I have been holed away for the last few weeks editing/re-writing a lengthy paper and producing a draft dissertation proposal (fingers crossed it flies!).  I have now come up for 24 hours of fresh air before plunging down again to finish off the dissertation proposal over the next two weeks.

My life has been very quietly spent in beautiful archives and libraries such as this pictured - the New York Public Library -  and those here in the Boston area such as the Massachusetts Historical Society and the American Antiquarian Society.  (Does anyone else get excited deciphering eighteenth century handwriting about constitutional procedure, or is it just me?)

Caught my neighbor right as he was giving me the evil eye.  Creepy.
My colorful accessories are a ploy to make others believe I am less geeky than I really am.  Is it working?
While here in Boston, I have spent all the moments not in or traveling to archives (or finishing up a proposal draft yesterday) with some very dear and now very old friends, pictured below (at Oxford, not Boston).

The visit has coincided with some extra-curricular thoughts on community building held over from my grandmother's funeral/reunion.  I thought it might be appropriate to post on it given the woman pictured below is likely the world's greatest "community organizer" alive, no offense to the man working in the White House.

Community is something Mormons just do.  The essentials for its success are all pre-packaged: a common value system, jobs that get everyone engaged (via church responsibilities), and a higher purpose (returning to our Heavenly Father).  Thus it is that wherever one moves in the world (almost), a Mormon knows they will have a community waiting for them.  Some communities are more welcoming and "sticky," than others, but they always exist.  As my dad says, "Mormons are Mormons are Mormons."

My entire life, I have been surrounded and embraced by community of various Mormon varieties, beginning with a large nuclear and massive extended family in Arizona and California where everyone knew my name.  Then I moved to Provo, UT where the LDS congregation, or "ward," and the neighbors were the same thing.  From there I transferred into the community of BYUSA, BYU's form of student government.  

From BYU I embarked for Boston.  There/here I had a wonderful, albeit abbreviated, taste of the LDS community of Belmont, Massachusetts of which my friends pictured below are a potent part.  

After two months and a three-week stint in a mini-community in the form of a "district" of the Provo, UT Mission Training Center, I jumped into the community of a mission in Sydney, Australia.  

Once finishing my mission, I joined perhaps the strongest community I have ever known--at BYU law school, from which I graduated with 150 best friends. 

I then created a community within the non profit I founded and integrated myself into a family congregation in Washington, DC, "graduating" myself four years early from the singles congregation to which I was attending.                                                                                                                                                                                    

Thereafter, transitioning into the community of an Oxford college was nearly seamless.  Although I found I had less in common with my new comrades, I still managed to make very close friends whom I will likely take to the grave.

The absence of a lasting community over the last couple of years as I've trotted around the globe from big city to big city has gotten me thinking of the ingredients necessary to create such a community.  I believe it is a fountain of happiness and the glue that makes for fulfilling, interesting lives.   

Here's to finding the right ingredients and becoming a competent "organizer" (without driving my poor husband nuts)...  

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