Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Community Is Underrated

I recently read the book One City: A Declaration of Interdependence by Ethan Nichtern, founder of The Interdependence Project. It was given to me by a friend that I greatly admire. The whole premise behind The Interdependence Project is that we are all connected. That everything we do, all the choices we make, effect someone or something else. As Nichtern writes: "Like the butterfly effect in chaos theory, the truth of interdependence states that no individual's action merely disappears into outer space without an effect. Each action creates the grounds for some situation that follows it."

This interdependence theory was brought to light and deep understanding for me this past Saturday in a way that I will never, ever forget. A group of our friends whom Craig has known since middle school and that I have been close with since high school put together a "Big Benefit Bash" to raise money for us to help offset the cost of the medical bills and living expenses piling up with just one paycheck to cover them. Though we resisted when we first heard of the benefit planning, they told us that they were doing this and that was that. What we experienced on Saturday was nothing short of beautiful.

Craig and I were so taken aback at the extreme generosity of our friends that planned the benefit, those that donated the raffle and silent auction items, the more than 2o0 people that showed up and the dozens more that couldn't be there but donated to the cause and were there in strong spirit. Being the "charity" is an odd thing to accept but what we came to realize is that all of these people - some we've known forever and some complete strangers - all wanted to help because they want to see me get better and to see Craig and me on the other end of this. That is a very powerful reality to digest and we are forever humbled and forever grateful.

There was face painting, a dunk tank, silent auction, raffle, door prize, pinata, lawn games, slews of pasta, salad and meatballs ... even an ice cream truck showed up for the occasion. Dozens of fellow teachers, students and their parents (current and past) from Craig's school were there. My former and former, former co-workers, our family members, family members of our friends, friends from way back and ones we've just met, strangers that we've never met but have been connected to our story through friends of friends or because they are avid blog readers. People were even donning "Karin's Cancer Warriors" t-shirts that another friend had made.

A woman came up to me and I couldn't place why I knew her. She looked me in the eyes and said her name and it all hit me at once - the effect of the entire day. I burst into choking tears telling her that I couldn't believe she was there and asking her how she even knew. She looked me right in the eyes and said: "It's because I love you, Karin." This is someone that I have not seen for maybe three years. Someone that I've really met in person only once or twice but whose organization's programs (The Artists Collective) I helped promote during my time at Hartford Magazine and the Greater Hartford Arts Council. I always enjoyed our phone conversations and e-mail exchanges and always felt a close connection with her. To find out that she felt the same way and that she thinks of me was so much to grasp.

This happened throughout the day as people from my past showed up in support. People close to my parents that have heard about me since I was a little kid, neighbors from our little village of Tariffville, some of my best friends - with babies in tow, parents of Craig's students who continually told me what an amazing teacher he is and how he has changed their children's lives. To hear the words of encouragement and see the faces behind all the messages and thoughtful gifts of support that have poured in since my diagnosis absolutely filled my chest with pure, unadulterated happiness and appreciation.

I kept looking around at all of these positive and selfless people and thinking, how could we be so lucky to have them all in our lives? I realized that this is what it's all about. You build these types of relationships over a lifetime by the way you live your own life. You are who you surround yourself with. Somehow something that we did had a positive effect on these people's lives as much as their actions had a positive effect on ours. Then that all just spirals into one big love fest within a community that we've built by the connections that we've made. It's all so much bigger than ourselves.

It's easy to sleepwalk through life and not notice the people around you, not to lend a hand to help someone through their struggles. It's easy to never do more than wave at your neighbor but if you do get the time to know them (ours was there manning the DJ booth and taking pictures), if you do take the time to connect with people in all aspects of your communities, life is so much richer. As I've said so many times throughout this journey, I never consciously thought about what kind of effect I could have on people – positively or negatively – but instead was just always myself. Now I see what an impact the littlest gestures can make and I am so much more mindful of that fact.

I feel like a lot of people in this world are afraid of each other or live their lives thinking that people are out to get them, going out of their way to avoid having to make eye contact with someone or God forbid, have a deep conversation. I've certainly been guilty of this at times. But I can tell you, when it comes down to it, the human race is an incredibly giving one and I am honored to be a part of it. Everyone has a story, something to offer the world, and also their own weight that they are carrying. Don't ever doubt that when you are down – and we all will be – that there will be people who step up to peel you off the pavement. And that those that are the ones to do it may surprise you. We all have so much to learn from each other if we just open up our hearts and our minds and let each other in.

As we said in our speech to those that were there and everywhere, we will never, ever be able to repay everyone for everything that they've done for us over the course of this tumultuous year, but rest assured we will pay it forward again and again for the rest of our lives.

"What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" - George Eliot

Big Benefit Bash


  1. Wow! From what I've heard, a great time was had by all. I so wish we could have been there with you! Hope we can get together one of these days. Good luck with your upcoming treatments, and enjoy the beautiful weather in the meantime!
    : ) Michelle

  2. Bill, Trish & Nick can't wait for June 2015 :)

  3. I tripped across your blog while doing my own research on some wacky symptoms I was having - I read the entire thing and promptly 'bookmarked' it. You have an incredible spirit and are an excellent writer, to boot! My favorite so far, was the egg analogy about how you were feeling. You are so right. We all have a profound affect on each other. Pretty powerful stuff if we use it, or don't use it, correctly. You continue to stay in my thoughts and prayers. ~Rebecca

  4. Yo, Rocky! SO great to see you looking rested and "feeling strong now." In the next round, go pummel that cancer into remission for good. You can do it; we're in your corner. Thanks to all for a great event. (It made us all feel good too.)
    :) Lisa

  5. I can't believe we missed such a good time--are there any t-shirts left--want one!! I HATE to miss a good bash!!! Ok--now on to the finale and the cure--forever---keep up the good work--more than ever now we know what you can do!!! Love you kiddo Bev&Blake---Love to Craig too

  6. Sounds as though you had a wonderful day. So sorry I missed it. Very heartening to know how many people love you and are pulling for you. God bless you as you go into your next phase. You have proven your strength, and courage. Before you know it you will be told you are cancer free. Believe me, those are golden words. Always in my prayers.Irene