We recently invited our families to join us for a picnic lunch at one of our hiking locations, and the turnout was great. As I stood over the large sheet cake, guarding it from predators (we were in the wilderness, after all), I was humbled by what I saw, and also reminded of the power of community.
First, the humbling part. The Community School is in the midst of its tenth year, and in my view, our work has been strong throughout. We put so much emphasis on the quality of our staff, from the hiring process through the training and team-building that is ongoing. But as confident as I am in the quality of what we provide, we must still engender the trust of our families, and it is always humbling to be entrusted with such an important job. I am grateful for the trust we are granted.
Now to the power of community. During lunch, I observed several moments of stress in students and participants. One student was uncomfortable with the size of the crowd; another with the heat. A third individual was concerned about what others might think about the way he looked. A participant in the kickball game began to get a little too competitive. In each case, someone from the staff said a few soothing words, empathized with the individual’s struggle, and then made some subtle change to the environment or the game to alleviate that intense frustration. And all around, as family members and others observed, there was a sense of acceptance and patience about what was happening. Nobody was criticized or judged for their behavior. The community absorbed and then dissipated the tension of each of these moments with respect and acceptance. I love what a supportive community can do for people.
– Dave Nelson