I love me some community. I grew up in a very small town and understood what it meant from an early age. Now I live in a very large metropolitan area and have managed to create or participate in communities all around me.

I have a wonderful community at my workplace. It’s a book store and the regulars are quality people who make up a community of readers, disjointed as they may be or as connected as it seems we all are some days. Someone will have a need, we try to fill it. Might be a book, might be an apartment. Or someone will drop by with homegrown tomatoes. There’s always someone with a fascinating bit of information or a recommendation for a book, play, movie or event. These folks make my daily life’s work worthwhile.

I have a wonderful community of neighbors. We watch out for each other. We trade veggies in the fall. We share lemons and keep an eye on each others’ house when we’re away. We share our yard waste bins and help each other with home improvement projects. We make suggestions for ways to keep our homes safe and what color to paint and how to best store the tools. These folks are people I can count on to be there when I need help and make my home life wonderful.

I have an amazing community of chosen family. We’ve celebrated together, we’ve laughed, cried, worked, planned, shared food and wine, and then shared more food and wine. We’ve traveled together, we’ve had falling outs and reunions, children, pets and partners. These folks fill my life with love and shared history. We’ll all be together for a birthday this weekend at the beach and I just came across pictures from 15 years ago doing the very same thing.

And now I have a new community. I joined an online group whose premise is that there’s a month’s worth of prompts and each day you post a photograph for that day’s prompt. I love the creativity, the immediacy, and the challenge of thinking creatively every day and getting feedback. Some of their photos take my breath away, some of their interpretations make me envious, some of their imagery makes me cry. But it’s quickly become much more than an art project. With images come stories, and from stories come comments and discussions. Someone rightly said that it’s like the book If You Give A Mouse a Cookie. One thing inevitably leads to another, and another.  One post lead to a discussion of silent husbands with chest pains, to faulty pediatricians, to past relationships, to communications styles.  All in the course of an afternoon in bits and bites. These people share themselves freely, live all over the US and Australia, and care deeply about each other. One has a family member who had a sudden medical emergency and others jumped in to auction off items to raise money for her. Mind you, they’re auctioning things to each other. And most have never met each other in person. These folks remind me that when you say yes to opportunities and open your heart, you get back so very much more than you could ever give.

Things observed: community can come in many forms, and where you least expect it. Creativity is something I crave. Amazing photos can be taken with a phone camera. Some of the best adventures are told by the best storytellers. And there’s more than enough love to go around if you just let it. And, I love my communities.