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Community Holds Us Together

Our families and communities are facing greater challenges than we have seen in several generations. When faced with such challenges I find some comfort by looking to our history, for the ideas of our fore fathers.

Consider these wise words written by Walt Whitman about the Civil War.

In his poem States! Whitman wrote;

"States! Were you looking to be held together by the lawyers? By an agreement on a paper? Or by arms? Away! I arrive, bringing these, beyond all the forces of courts and arms. These! To hold you together as firmly as the earth itself is held together "

As you read the full text of Whitman's poem he doesn't talk about financial windfalls or victory through the defeat of others. Whitman instead defines the word "These" as friendship, camaraderie, innovation and countless linked hands.

"These shall tie and band stronger than hoops of iron, I, ecstatic, O partners! O lands! Henceforth with the love of lovers tie you."

These are the bonds of community created by our souls.

The current recession has reminded many of us that it is not the agreements on paper that have built the greatest parts of our society; these institutions have been built through the use of collective resources and public funds.

Libraries, schools, community centers and green spaces; food pantries, shelters and free clinics; fire, police and public works departments - these are the institutions that bring us together. They require that you participate in the social exchange which in turn creates community.

Like a potluck, or the story of stone soup, we each contribute one small piece of the recipe to build something much greater than our individual effort could afford. Unfortunately, the common response as of late has been that we are turning our backs on "liberty" - becoming "socialists" by joining such collective efforts.

Whitman answers this in his poem by stating, "The most dauntless and rude shall touch face to face lightly, the dependence of Liberty shall be lovers, the continuance of Equality shall be comrades."

When we remind ourselves of the history of our nation it is evident that no singular important event happened based on pure individualism, but on a community of individuals working together for the greater good. Standing united, in solidarity, for the sake of community; for the sake of love and compassion. This was the birth of our nation.

My hope is that we listen to those wise words that Walt Whitman put forward; when individuals and community organizations reach out we must meet them with open arms.

In these trying times we must again hold together as firmly as the earth itself.

Andrew Miller writes the blog Elephants of Bicycles