My Own Backyard

The cynic in me has gone so far as to wonder if “keeping up with people” (the social media version aside) has much to do with community. Could it just be one more thing we do to measure personal success? A quantifiable measure of our general adequacy? That said, community isn’t something we can quantify because it isn’t something that exists outside of us… Living it makes it so. And it’s when we have limited resources and opportunities that we rely more heavily on each other and therefore engage more intimately with one another. I think about that. I worry.

Community is based on the intrinsic rewards of reciprocal altruism; it is how humanity prospers. And although I fret that between my neuroticism and society’s, it might be out of reach-my heart’s desire is to feel grounded in a sense of community and to foster reciprocal altruism in my life.

People came out of the woodwork to offer empathy and assistance, to distract me with company or phone check-ins, to share their stories, to pay it forward with prepared food and play dates for my older son. I have rarely been so grateful for or so aware of community.

What does that have to do with bed rest? Well, despite my woe-is-me reflection, there was a clear silver lining to my temporary incapacitation: my sense of community was bolstered. People came out of the woodwork to offer empathy and assistance, to distract me with company or phone check-ins, to share their stories, to pay it forward with prepared food and play dates for my older son. I have rarely been so grateful for or so aware of community. It was humbling, awesome, and delicious.

To My Children: Home, to me, is less the roof over our heads and more about the people we love and care for, and those who love and care for us: our community. We are rich and lucky because of the wonderful people in our lives. As a certain young lady once said on the silver screen, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.” Sometimes the answers we seek (think that famous pair of ruby slippers) are invisible or unknowable until a pivotal moment in our personal journey. As Italian Nobel laureate Rita Levi-Montalcini wrote, “Above all, don’t fear difficult moments. The best comes from them.” Ask for help, and let your hardships be reminders that you are not alone.


Nelle Myrica Donaldson is a writer living Berkeley, CA with her husband and three children. Her academic interests and expertise are in biology, psychology and anthropology, and she enjoys writing about the human experience through the lenses of parenting, science, and speculative fiction. www.nelledonaldson.com

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