I have spent a lot of time in the last 10 years thinking about community. I put most all my eggs in the Blue Scorcher basket, working towards creating and supporting community in lots of ways. Ironically that work, with its early mornings, made me a horrid correspondent to longtime friends, and an infrequent participant in local parties and events. In trying to build a community machine I missed a lot of potlucks.
When I was in college I took two amazing anthropology courses from Carol Silverman at UO. A key concept that she presented was the term kinwork, which is the unpaid work that keeps culture and society going. It is often based loosely on reciprocity and traditional gender roles. You are engaged in kinwork whenever you take care of children, help a friend move, write holiday cards, or stay up late talking on the phone with your sister. It is what reminds us that we are WE, not just lonely I.
Starting this cancer-ing journey, this ride on the Pooka’s back, it seems that my social capital balance for kinwork outside the Scorcher world must surely be somewhere in the negative. The handmade gifts I used to delight in making, the food dropped off for loved ones in need, the parties we organized- so much of that kinwork dropped off and just like having my home kitchen tidy, or keeping up with the laundry, it all sort of became a distant memory whilst immersed in Scorcher land.
Today while on a walk with my sister and Sam we came upon a quartet of beautiful women and their dogs out enjoying the beautiful day. It was good to see them all, good to take off my hat to model my temporary buzz cut to people with whom I share a history. To be reassured that “Nobody has been keeping score.” which is pretty generous considering that for the most part I have been a terrible friend for the last nine years. The generosity and kindness of others is amazing to me.
Just today we have been the recipients of the kind kinwork of at least 6 different people. Someone told me to “Accept all help.” So I am trying to set aside my habitual guilt, and see the help we are being given as a two way street. If this journey is not just about me, if I am really a WE, then it really is okay. This cancer-ing cast ripples in the pond we all swim in. Perhaps all this kind support from others is helping those others feel a bit better about it all. I know that all the kindness is definitely making me feel better. It is more difficult to feel sad and or freaked out when you are feeling grateful. So, thanks everybody.