Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reconnecting With Community

Cape Canaveral Beach, Florida where I spent last weekend with my daughter

Some situations in our community the past couple of years left me and my family feeling singled out, rejected, and talked about. In one word – ostracized.

After these situations, I ventured out to the Christmas Bazaar last fall with my daughter, daughter-in-law and grandbaby, feeling vulnerable, but trying to be brave. Most people were friendly and spoke to me. One woman wouldn’t say “hi” back to me when I said hello. But the woman beside her came around the table, hugged me and made a fuss over my grandbaby. Thank you, again, for your kindness. One lady turned away from my girls when she saw them. This broke my heart when they told me about it.

Whether the ostracism was real or perceived, the result was the same. I withdrew. My family withdrew.

We withdrew from the community where John was born and raised and where our children were born and raised; the place where we have lived 28 out of the 30 years of marriage; and where we have been involved over the years in the school, library, 4-H, fire department, and church.

I am writing this, not for you to feel sorry for me. I am writing because I know I am not alone. If there is one thing I know about my community and your community, it is that there are many wounded hearts, people who have been shunned or who feel ostracized from their community.
It isn’t something we like to think about.

It’s easier to explain away why someone doesn’t fit into our community. Sins become scarlet letters, which makes it OK to talk about someone and tell everyone else what they’ve done. We label people because it is easier to label someone than work to get to know them for who they are. Personal lives are treated like the soap opera on television, “Did you hear about so-and-so? Can you believe it?”

Is it any wonder so many of us hide out and stay away from community?

Or, we flat out have a feud. We try to control what others think. We draw people to our side by telling them how bad those other people are. We have a verbal shoot-out in a public meeting.

The result? Either we have power and do everything we can to keep control. Or we withdraw. Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms.

Well, I’m tired of eating worms. Worms infiltrate your system with hatred, bitterness, loneliness and rejection.

Last week, I stepped out and returned to the Book Club at the library. It had been over a year since I had attended a meeting. The women welcomed me back with hugs and smiles. And graciously forgave me when I spent much of the meeting talking with the new branch manager of the library.

It felt good to be with a group of community members and to be accepted as I am – broken, hurt, vulnerable, but striving to be brave and courageous.

Last week I read Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong. Her words define what I am feeling and inspire me to keep muddling through and finding the ability to rise strong. But Chapter Six, “Sewer Rats and Scofflaws” stunned me. In this chapter Brené shares a situation with another person in which she felt very uncomfortable. Her therapist asks, “What if that woman was doing the best she could that weekend?” Brené struggled with this idea.

Brené asked her husband, “Do you think, in general, that people are doing the best that they can?”

He answered after much thought, “I don’t know. I really don’t. All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”

Read his response again. “My life is better when…”

How will our lives change when we assume people are doing their best? What will happen if we stop judging and accept people for who they are at that moment? How do we focus on what is instead of what should be or could be?

Looking back at my experience at the Christmas Bazaar, I know the pain of rejection was real. I experienced it and I felt it. The rejection devastated me. My thoughts ran with what should be or could be. She should have said hi to me. She could have stepped forward and spoken to my girls. She should have fussed over my grandbaby.

But what if each lady was doing the best she could at that moment? It doesn’t make the rejection any easier, but it makes my judgment a little less. If I can accept those moments for what they were without dwelling on what they should have been, then I can let go of the pain and anger I’ve held for a year.

I am doing the best I can. 


  1. I love reading your blogs! Your words help me and you are a good writer!

    1. Thanks, Jan! Your encouragement helps me keep writing the blogs.

  2. Your best on any day is better than I could ever be. I'm not a forgiving person, and here you are forgiving everyone.

    1. Sometimes it's just better to forgive and move on instead of holding it all in, Carol. Maybe I'll be able to write again when I get rid of all of this junk.

  3. What a beautiful and generous post, Gayle! Congratulations to you for embracing the idea that forgiveness is freeing. I do believe we are each doing our best--sometimes that best is pretty ugly, but it's still our best. You have more courage than you think...

    1. I appreciate your comment, Susan. Writing this post has opened a lot of thoughts for me that I am wrestling into understanding.