I've lived in this community for almost half of my life.
I was thinking about that this morning as I drove past the high school I graduated from in 1980. Thinking about community and what that means. What it meant to me then, and what it means to me now.
I grew up as a military brat. We packed and moved almost every two years of my childhood, and I never had a sense of community ... or family. I envied my cousins who celebrated birthdays and holidays with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles that I barely knew. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen some of my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents ... and still have fingers left. My grandparents are all gone now. As are my father, two uncles, two aunts, and a cousin.
When we moved here in 1974, shortly after my father returned from Viet Nam, it was the first time we ever owned a home. We got to watch it being built from the ground up and moved into it in 1975. Two years later, my parents divorced and I moved again. My first two years of high school were spent in a city on the opposite side of the state before I returned to spend my senior year with my father. When he passed away in 2007, he still owned that house. He was a part of this community simply because he out-lasted the outsider stigma.
It was always difficult for me though. I was always "new kid." Even though I knew most of my senior year classmates because we had attended half of 6th, and all of 7th, 8th, and 9th grades together ... I was still an outsider because I had gone somewhere else for 10th and 11th grades. I wasn't in the community. I was just someone who longed to belong ... somewhere ... anywhere.
Several years after graduation, I moved to California with my then boyfriend. We became engaged, got married, and got divorced all within three years.
I met my next husband the month my first divorce was final and we married the following year in 1989. After twelve years I was without a community again. My divorce coincided with my twenty-year high school reunion. I had thrown myself into planning the tenth and twentieth, and I think feeling that I was part of something gave me the strength and courage to walk away from his abusive manipulations and his community of addictions.
In 2001, I came back to live by the water again ... a land-locked mermaid who had spent too many years in the desert. I was still seeking community ... and family. I thought I had found it a few times with friends who were those former classmates. But then I realized that no matter what, I would still be an outsider because I hadn't been born here. I had wanderlust in my blood that would always make me the "new kid" because I didn't stay. I didn't have history here. I can drive the streets and know the landmarks like the freckles on my arms, but because I came here from somewhere else ... and left ... I wasn't part of this community.
In 2010, my husband and I tried to find a new community in the desert of Texas, but it wasn't meant to be. Two years later, we came back to this home I thought I would never see again.
Today while I was driving these familiar streets, looking at buildings, businesses, and even trees that I know like the back of my hand, I realized that the community I've been seeking all along has always been with me. It is my husband, my dogs, my cat, my familiar walk on the beach ... my community is the place that God fills in my soul. With or without all of the other things that community may mean to someone else ... where I feel at home the most is where I am.
Right here, right now ... right with God.