Community, what does that mean to you? I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently. Growing up, the definition that came to mind would have been the neighborhood that I grew up in. Simple. Except, recently, I’ve been thinking deeper. Not just what is a community, as can be defined by a dictionary (taken from the dictionary on my computer):
1 a group of people living together in one place, esp. one practicing common ownership
2 [usu. with adj. ] a group of people having a religion, race, profession, or other particular characteristic in common
3 a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals : the sense of community that organized religion can provide.
4 Ecology a group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat
There are so many layers to community. There are moments where I would like to define it by what we have here on the ship. This is a community, and for all of our problems and downfalls, we function very well. We are, as defined above, are a group of people living in one place, having a characteristic in common (wanting to help the forgotten poor), and we are interdependent... for all the functions of daily living on the ship. We fit most definitions of community. And yet...
I step onto the wards, where we mix all of our cultures from around the world and from the country that we are nestled on the edge of, and I soak in the difference that exists here. I learn to redefine community and to wish that this existed everywhere.
I watch a young man have a temper tantrum when he can’t have rice (a local staple, that if he ate it could compromise his healing), and as those around him realize the problem, one by one they tell him how they went without rice as well. How they followed our directions and went 3 weeks, 5 weeks, 5 months without rice. One after another calling out encouragement, reminding him that others have done this before him. And I think - this is how community should act. Encouraging each other, lifting each other up, willing to share our troubles to help others get through them.
I watch one patient speak up to translate for another (sometimes as many as 3 or 4 people needed to translate one to another until a phrase can make it from the speaker to the one who needs to hear the words), willing and eager to ensure the other’s voice is heard, wanting to help however they can. This is how community should act, speaking up for each other, being the voice for someone who doesn’t have a voice.
I see a patient slip and start to fall, and another reaches out to catch them before they can get hurt. I see many helping to encourage, play with, talk with, and hold the many children on the ward. Distant relatives or neighbors or the caregiver in the next bed, all willing to help look after a child who needs surgery. The flow of help and kindness... this is how it should be.
It’s not perfect, there are arguments and yelling matches. There are moments of discipline that seem to go a little too far. There are stubborn patients and caregivers that just don’t want to learn what will help them heal faster or better. But there is a spark of greatness I see in this place. And I wonder sometimes if the patients bring this with them, or if we encourage it in them by treating them with kindness in the first place.
It doesn’t matter really. I’m just in love with the community that we’re growing on the wards, even as it changes daily, it’s an amazing place to be!