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I used to belong to a community.
No, this doesn't have anything to do with where I live. Yes, I do live in a nice community of homes, business and people. It's a small-ish town, although mainly a suburban community for two larger cities. It retains a certain element of small-town America: a nice Main Street, street fair, local churches, lodges and community centers. The police will check your house and property if you tell them you'll be out-of-town,your neighbors are nosy enough to know if something is wrong. We tend to look out for the little old lady neighbor or gather to help cut up a fallen tree.
But that is not the community of which I write...
No, I am speaking of a community of thoughts and actions. At one time in my life, I was a Boy Scout. As a young man I was trained, taught, molded and shaped by the experience. I learned to camp, to cook, to sew, to navigate, to build, and to save a life. Naturally, as an adult, I wanted that for my own sons, so I became an adult leader.
This was a community - people with whom I genuinely enjoyed spending a weekend each month, and a whole week in the summer. We were supportive of each other. I was "father" to a whole bunch of "sons" - and they were additional "fathers" to my own boys. We took turns driving, pulling the trailer, checking the gear, teaching the Merit Badges.
These were my friends, but more importantly, we were a support network. If I had a problem, I knew who to call - from car problems, to borrowing a saw, to finding a house painter. I also knew that I might also receive a call. One weekend, I had a kidney stone attack. One of the other leaders drove me home (in my own car), took me to the hospital and handed me off to my wife. He took my car home with him, got some sleep, had his wife take him back to camp to pick up his own car (plus his son, my sons and all of their gear) - then returned my car to my house - washed.
Some months later, I paid it forward - driving home a young man who'd accidentally ingested some river water and had been sick to his stomach all night long... and again, about a year later I transported another adult leader to home and medical care after a close call with a bee sting allergy.
We were a community. We supported each other, we were there for each other. Not all of us had the same amount of time in the group - there were always newcomers while some left or moved on. I had the same sense of community with (nearly) all.
But the time came when I had to leave. There were multiple reasons why, but it was my choice - first and foremost because the sense of community had failed.
For many years now, my friends have been largely online. My closest friends actually lives a few hundred miles away, and that is fairly typical, with the distances ranging from a few hundred to nearly 3000 miles. In such a far-flung community, there is plenty of chance to be supportive and instructive, but the personal touch is not there. Yet, a couple of months ago I started studying Krav Maga. It's not giving anything away to state that I am well over 50 years old and seriously overweight - starting any sort of exercise program is a challenge. Still, I love the exercise and the activity and I have a pretty good support network and motivation for a rigorous program of diet and exercise.
Tonight at class, a fellow classmate mentioned that he'd missed seeing me on Monday. I had missed that class because of preparing for a minor medical procedure the next day. During class, while trying to learn a difficult move, that same classmate talked me through it, repeated times and critiqued and corrected my motions. Another member of the class is about my general age and body strength. We spar well together, and I genuinely enjoy working with him - but I had missed him the last 10 days while he was out of the country. There are advanced students who also instruct - one in particular reminds me of one of my Scouting colleagues - he has that same patience and genuine desire to help someone get better. He should know, he's a Third-degree Black Belt. Other members of the class - all adults, about two-thirds male, one-third female - are equally supportive, friendly and concerned with making sure we all work our best. The Academy Master runs the school as equal parts Martial Arts Academy and Leadership Academy. He, too, is supportive and sets the example for all of the students. I chose the school because my (now adult) oldest son chose it a year ago, so I watched and measured the character of the Master and students.
See, I found another community. We do not have to agree with each other. I frankly have no idea regarding the politics, gender orientation, religion or wealth of my fellow students. Yes, as I get to know them better, I do learn a bit more - but what is most important is that we support, train and teach each other. We genuinely want to see each other succeed.
Do you see the issue? Karate is a martial art - equal parts martial (the best self-defense is a prepared offense) and art (each move should have an instantaneous "Kodak moment" where you form and place the movement with grace and power). Krav Maga is all martial and no art. It is a combat training system whereby the students are taught to deflect, intercept and evade an oncoming attack. If attacked, we have one goal - to neutralize the attack and ensure that we are the one walking away.
There does not have to be a community to this training. The goal is to be capable in and of ourselves to deal with an attack. That doesn't involve making sure the other person doesn't get hurt or learns their moves - quite the opposite, in fact! However, in class, we pull punches (mostly! Ow!) and use padding, and it turns out - we learn better as a community that we ever could alone. I know, I bought Krav books and materials to study on my own.
Once again, I belong to a community.
Those of us who read and even write Science Fiction and Fantasy have a community of sorts - but frankly, it is broken. An association which should be supportive and helpful to members, has become more concerned with ensuring that only the "appropriate" people are members. There is more ado about authors who won't attend certain functions because some other guest makes them feel "unsafe" yet cannot themselves recount one real threat or accurately recall any instance where the one they accuse has ever justified that accusation. We have whole segments of the "community" denigrating one or more writers without ever having read a single word those authors have ever written!
Thus the community is broken. It is not helpful. It is not supportive.
...and most importantly - it does not teach or represent any value worth learning.