Sunday, August 26, 2007

Charleston as home

There comes a point, even in a self-proclaimed nomad's life, when the places you live feel like home. The town and the places you visit become your community. While this feeling can sometimes be a fleeting sensation, it can be a welcome break from a series of days comprised primarily of work.

Today has been one of those days for me. Actually, the weekend itself has served in this way. Yesterday (Saturday) we had our last educator sail, a rain date leftover from the beginning of the month. Even with some hefty thunderstorms in the area, we were able to finish out positively. That evening we had another sail, this time as a thank you to some of our bigger donors.

After we put the ship to bed, I joined some crewmembers in heading out to a housewarming party. There were people there I didn't know, but the majority of people I had met before, a strange and relatively new occurrence here in South Carolina.

Today, I was blessed with a delicious southern specialty for breakfast: Shrimp and Grits...yummy! (Thanks to the second mate and his wife for this feast). It was then off to church where I knew and spoke to a number of people. I realize this does not sound unusual, but in my mega-church I have easily gone entire weeks without seeing someone I have met before, making today a momentous transition. On my way to lunch (also with people from church) the Captain and I exchanged waves at a stoplight.

Later, after lunch, I headed to my coffee shop to sneak some work in. Much to my surprise, a friend from my small group was at the coffee shop. I wonder if I would run into many other people if I continued gallivanting around town.

All of this begs the question, when does a new place became your place? There is no question that the ship is my place, however, being able to move, how does Charleston and its areas eventually creep into being mine as well. How long does it take to meet enough people to randomly bump into them in public? Is that what creates a sense of community and belonging?

Belonging to a community used to be an easier achievement. If you moved somewhere, you could meet neighbors, join community groups (like churches), and through that make friends and feel some sense of belonging. Clearly, two months in, you would still not have the same sense of belonging someone who grew up there did, but joining community was easier. Nowadays, people don't know their neighbors, even if they have lived next door for a decade. Even active community involvement does not necessarily lead to friendships. So how then is this sense of community achieved?

It is an answer I have not really delved deeply for. Instead, I seem to abandon community more than seek it, racing off for my next adventure opportunity. Even today I surprised some church friends with the news that I would be leaving at Thanksgiving. I forget that not everyone is blessed with a career that encourages being flighty and taking off for ramparts unknown.

These people that have brightened my weekend are the same ones that I will be nostalgically remembering a year from now, while wondering why I do not know anyone in whatever place happens to be home that month.

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You should choose as your life's work whatever feels the most like play.
-Harvey Oxenhorn