On the eve of Rosh Hashanah last Wednesday, I drove down my darkened suburban street after a filling dinner at my parents’ house to inaugurate the Jewish New Year.
The sun had set and the moon shone bright. Along my street, where there are only bits of sidewalk here and there, people walked up and down the pavement like apparitions in long black dresses and long black coats, visions in the night.
I don’t remember ever seeing so much activity on my street at the onset of a holiday. Yes, I live in the religious neighborhood so many of the houses around me are inhabited by observant Jews who walk on holidays and Sabbaths.
The occasional family walks up and down the street in a hurry to get either to synagogue or home from there or to a friend’s house for a holiday meal. But this was different.
At 9:30 at night, clumps of people paraded together – women talking at the bottom of a driveway, resplendent in their Shabbat robes and head-scarves, men shaking hands and welcoming one another to the holiday in a most vigorous way.
I pulled into my driveway and pressed the button to open the garage, likely the only sound other than excited chatter up and down my street. I pulled in, shut off the motor.
When I stepped out of the car, I listened for a minute. It was the white noise of flurry, so much activity so as to hear none of it.
This concept of community – it’s important, yes, and it underlies everything we do. For instance, we belong to a synagogue more for the community component than for anything else. It is to be among others like us, who like the lilt of the Hebrew on a Saturday morning in the same way that I do and who recognize the same special times of year in similar ways.
But there’s more to community than just happening to pay your dues to the same institution.
Some would say – myself included – that it is the place we choose as a home after we have left our home of origin. Community is our ship that sails us through storms and darkness. (Of course, community can also be the storm itself, if we choose one where anything surely does not go. But that’s a different blog.)
I started my business 6 years ago on the premise that community-building would benefit businesses. That if the people behind a corporate entity actually cared about their customers in an authentic and meaningful way, the business would grow from this outpouring of mutual connection and benefit.
We are in a more connected world than ever, which leaves us lonely. Connecting virtually is not the same as a hand on the shoulder, an eye peering into another eye, peering into an empty heart.
I am part of many communities, all of them crucial to my health and well-being. To feel loved, important, missed when you don’t come, that is to know you are alive.
The hugs I get when I go to yoga after an absence…it makes me feel part of something, necessary, noticed.
Last Wednesday, since I am not part of this particular community, the chatter on my street eluded me. I went into my house and closed the door and peeled off my shoes to prepare for bed.
It’s ok. I used to be in that world and I chose to leave it. I can still admire the simplicity of neighbor-to-neighbor connection on a meaningful night. I can still bask in the glow of excitement around me, knowing that the threads that connect us have a place for me if I want to be part of the weave. And if not, there are other threads to braid.