Three Efforts at Community in Today’s World

What renders AA groups and parallel groups they have spawned successful “communities”?  They focus on both healing and truth-telling.  Their essence is listening to one another’s stories eye to eye. Their common ground and healing energy lies within their shared storytelling.

Peer support group (pre-COVID image). Photographer unknown.

This storytelling brings about group and individual empowerment based on the common grief and suffering that addictions inflict on oneself, their families, and associates.  The members serve one another when the crisis of addiction arises anew.  Empowerment is born from the wounds that exist within its members. 

The movement has helped millions of persons in deep ways.  Here is a testimony I received in a letter just this morning from an 85 year old woman. 

Oh, Boy- Just read “Violence and Peace among Chimpanzee Communities” and thought immediately: PATRIARCHY!  It’s been my LIFE–my mother’s, my grandmother’s, etc. etc. etc.

“The Al-Anon Concepts – original image” from the Al-Anon website.

I will be 85 on Dec. 22, –The Dawning of New Life–and the only way I found new life was when I replaced, as much as I could, Roman Catholicism with the 12 Steps of Al-Anon thirty two years ago.

This new life–one based on self-love and self-care–saved not only ME, the mother of six children, but THOSE people, my children, now relatively healthy adults in a very unhealthy world.

But the SHAME that has destroyed so many relationships, beginning with the most important one–with SELF–is always present, lurking in the past ready to raise its head!

Catholic Worker Houses, communities founded by Dorothy Day in the mid-1930’s, are under lay leadership and consist of people who have chosen to live and work with the poor. 

When he was homeless, Eric Hanley turned to the Catholic Worker House for help. There he found community and rediscovered his passion for serving others. Uploaded to YouTube by Grotto Network

They are places of hospitality for the poor.  Located in the poor areas of our cities, they hold special appeal to the young who are looking for a life with spiritual meaning.  Inspired by the words and example of Dorothy Day, radical gospel praxis lies at the heart of their movement.  Their model of simple living and dedication and respect for the poor has inspired many prophetic voices in American Catholicism such as the Berrigan brothers, Michael Harrington, and Thomas Merton.

Voting as an Act of Community: A poem by Rafael Jesus Gonzalez

Dead Letter Office

They say a scrivener 
went mad from years of working 
in the dead letter office, 
that undelivered love letter,
broken hearts; the bank note, 
a starving child; those words 
of hope, of condolence, of solace 
forever sealed, unread, cut short
weighed on his heart, his mind. 

“PA union leader for Philadelphia postal service workers said machines have been dismantled, and NBC10 investigative reporter Mitch Blacher obtained photos of the dismantling.” Uploaded to YouTube by NBC10 Philadelphia

What lives did they cost,
those letters dead, undelivered?
May not a destination be a destiny?
When ballots are not delivered 
could not a democracy be destroyed, 
    a tyranny assured?
In a dead letter office
a scrivener lost his mind;
in a dead letter office
a country can lose its liberty.*

        *“Dead Letter Office” © Rafael Jesús González 2020 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth, pp. 132f., 138f. 

Banner Image: “The Peaceable Kingdom” woodcut by Fritz Eichenberg for The Catholic Worker, 1950. Image uploaded to Flickr by Jim Forest.

Voting is an act of community, surely. And poetry about the state of voting today.  Interfering with voting is an attack on community.  Vote, and vote early to thwart those who would interfere with voting.  What other examples of community can you name other than the three listed in this meditation?  

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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4 thoughts on “Three Efforts at Community in Today’s World”

  1. Avatar

    In Los Angeles my wife and I both signed up for “Where’s my ballot?” We were notified that they were received two days we mailed them. That website name is used in California and may differ in other states. All but five states offer tracking. The exceptions: Maine, Mississippi and Missouri. In New York and Texas it is only for overseas and military ballots.

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