Communities come in all variations, and if you are a part of a good community. Savor it. Learn from it. Embrace it. I have seen all kinds including communities that were hip, beautiful and friendly. In all of my life though, I have never seen one come together like the small community of Mull, Arkansas. They operate efficiently, compassionately and with great passion. If you are in need, these are the people to call. If you need a laugh, these are most definitely the people to call. There is no doubt that this little community is hinged, to some degree, by the Shipman Family. Yet it must be clear that the Shipman Family has the demeanor that is so inclusive that sometimes when observing them you feel like there is no one around that is NOT a member of the Shipman Family. So with all of the wonderful families in this community, it does seem like one giant family most of the time. I once described the Shipman Family Farm (i.e., The Farm) as magic. I have seen with my own eyes (and certainly heard the tales) people of all walks of life, all beliefs, religions, etc., walk through the front door and it is like it all evaporates. There is certainly debate within those walls, but at the core of everything there is mutual love and respect. You have heard people describe someone as ruling with an iron fist. Well, Doretha runs The Farm with an open heart. It doesn't matter who you are, you are greeted with open arms, a big smile, and a plate of food. Not necessarily in that order. :)
I am engrossed in 'community' today because yesterday (again) I was blessed to see the Mull community band together for a neighbor and a friend. In the process, I was blessed to get to help ~ these are my friends and neighbors now too ~ and observe up close and personal, this community in action. One minor footnote, I also got to work my first forest fire. On the list of things I might have had as a child of things I probably would never do, being a volunteer firefighter would have probably been on that list. Just goes to show, you NEVER know what life has in store for you. I digress.
In the last few years, I have observed the Mull community in times of great highs and tremendous lows (i.e., the Ice Storm of 2009 always comes to mind). I am amazed that it has taken this little community, with little more than a sign that says "Mull" when you enter, to teach me what my travels around the world and living in multiple towns and cities (see a previous post) truly did not. I believe there is a lesson for everyone in this, and that is that the size of the community or its numbers really doesn't matter. With a lot of heart, determination, and a willingness to work, any community can make a difference. It makes me think of Matthew 18:20 that says, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." God is love. A community that is acting in and with love. Anybody else connecting the dots??
Acts of community and amazing communities are all around us. Look at how the community in Tuscon came together after the recent tragedy this month. Look at the various communities in Egypt coming together as one as they protest in a desire for a better and more equal community. Look at the way a community of people banded together in Central Arkansas to protect, warm and feed another community of people (i.e., the homeless). Look at your own family and how they band together when one is ill or suffering. If we could only spread that feeling of community as fast as that fire yesterday flamed out of control, what a world we would make. Wait! We can! Every time you band together with others, you are spreading that love and sense of community. You can call it "Pay it Forward" or whatever name you want to, but the point is to spread love and kindness in all that you do. Help others. Focus on what you have in common rather than the vast differences that could separate you like a great sea...but only if you let it.
Just a side note, when I walk into church today there will be a lot of tired, sore people (self included), but I am predicting that what you will hear (along with singing, scripture, etc.) is a lot of laughter and stories (possibly a few tall tales) about 'the big fire' yesterday. I am already smiling about it, and I am not even there yet. That is the thing about communities...they are always with you...in your heart and in your mind.
I hope that all of you find a community of your own, and when you do, please celebrate it and pass the feeling on.
Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)
P.S. The fire was successfully contained but not after it had spread and scorched a great deal of land including a beautiful mountain.. Between the wind and the dry leaves, the Ralph Caney Volunteer Fire Department had their hands full. No buildings or houses were lost. This small, but proud, group of firefighters support their efforts on $25/year from each of the families in the Hwy 14 South area (paid as a line item on their property tax bill) and an annual fundraiser (BBQ, silent auction, music) in the fall. If you run a non-profit and you want to see how to get it done, you might want to travel to Mull and take a look at this group. I have never seen more done with less. It just goes to show that sometimes more money isn't the way to get it done, it is simply more hands. Because let me tell you, the hands in this group, get it done. Their big hearts probably have a lot to do with it too. This is also not to say that they would not appreciate donations. Just sayin'. :)
Labels: Fire, Mull, Ralph Caney Volunteer Fire Department, Shipman