You may know that I was the only child of African American parents—Dr. & Mrs. C. Mason Quick. As a child, I envied peers who had siblings. As I grew older, I came to see this as a mixed blessing. There are advantages and disadvantages in any circumstance. And the size of the household is only one of many factors that affect the quality of life. Health of household members, wealth, material resources, and family values are major contributors to quality of life. Lifestyles vary in many ways, shaped by religious affiliation, occupations of adults, and household composition. For example, two otherwise identical households that vary with respect to the number of generations represented, may be markedly different. So, as I matured, I put more effort into development of intentional relationships, and thought less about the brother and sister that I imagined would have made my life complete.
Chance encounters with people who express kindness and generosity have added positive energy to my life. Examples abound! Friendships and connections with family members, especially cousins, sustain me. My one-to-one friendships are the most surprising and exhilarating aspect my community. While my father had several deep friendships, I was not aware of any such relationships in my mother’s life. My mother—my principle role model—had many casual relationships with church members, card-playing associates, civic organizations, and wives of my father’s friends. But I was not aware of deep friendships in her life, comparable to the ones my father and I experienced. (I may share several examples from our lives.)
Community for me is not geographically defined. It’s defined by shared values and commitments. Most of my friends do not know one another; they live in different places. I met them at different stages of my life, in various places and circumstances, including college, worksites, neighborhoods, churches, and schools attended by my children.
Building community has been more challenging than I expected. The obvious models involve proximity and more social interaction than I seek. The models with which I am familiar typically apply criteria for inclusion that do not appeal to me. (I was socialized to value exclusivity, based largely on classist attributes.) So, building and sustaining community, at this stage of my life, requires creativity and assertiveness. There is no “auto pilot” model for me to follow. I must create my path, mindful that I do not want to make others uncomfortable or imply that I am judging their choices, which may be different from my own.
Let’s talk about your community and the relationships that are most important in your life. How do you define your communities? How do they help you thrive? Do they contribute to your sense of purpose? Do these relationships help make your life meaningful? What do you do to sustain and strengthen your community? What organizations, institutions or traditions are important in your community life?
Join us online at 2:30 p.m. (EST) Saturday the 16th of September to talk about these questions and other aspects of friendship and community.
Paula Mason Quick Hall