When I was in high school, I loved attending and working on the staff of a religious retreat called Happening. Not only were we encouraged to ask the difficult questions, but we were also able to do this in a close, positive atmosphere. Building community was the most important theme, and during the weekend, I experienced a sense of belonging to something larger, a sense of purpose. I spent three days in this wonderful utopia, before crashing against the rocks of reality.
Then, during the second such retreat, someone gave a talk that changed everything. The last talk of the weekend is always the “back to reality” talk, to prepare everyone for re-entry into the “real world.” This time, the theme was that we already were in reality. That we were all real people, and the community we created, in such a positive atmosphere, was real.
And so, throughout my adult life, I have been searching for that community in the “real world.” I have been looking for places where I can nurture that positive, cohesive atmosphere.
And I have found it many times.
One of the most memorable places where I found it was in our first neighborhood, after we were married. It was called “Pleasant Beach Mobile Home Resort,” and I wrote about it here.
Last weekend, while Beanie was staying with her grandparents, Rob and I made a trip back to Pleasant Beach. We are considering renting a lot there and living in the motor home, while we tie up some loose ends, after we are done with the house. We brought a picture, as evidence that we had lived there before, because we didn’t expect anyone to remember us.
What followed was a very delightful walk. People most definitely did remember us, although it’s been 9 years since we lived there. Everyone was happy to see “the newlyweds,” and they fussed over pictures of Beanie. They caught us up on all of the drama that had taken place over the years–the park went through a rough period, but now things are returning to the way they were. Our old house was now the social gathering place in the park. We learned who had moved away, who had died, and we met some of the new residents (including two, who were boaters). We were assured that the manager (sadly, the lady who managed the park when we lived there has long since retired and moved out of the park) would definitely let us park our motor home on a lot.
For dinner, we ate at our old restaurant, in “our” table. The restaurant had changed ownership and had a new name, but much of the staff had stayed. Everyone came over the greet us, as they all had been wondering what we have been up to. At the table next to us, we conversed with a couple who vacations in Galveston–they said we definitely need to take Beanie to the beach.
This is what it is like to return home, never as a stranger. This is the kind of community we seek to become a part of, and help create if necessary, wherever life takes us next.
Back in 2001…
And last weekend…