A Time For Community
Issue   |   Tue, 04/03/2018 - 19:48

Last week brought tragic news to our community. With emotions running high, questions left unanswered and the process of mourning ongoing, it is important that we take time to be kind and thoughtful and forge community.
Often the notion of building, fostering or developing community feels lofty — almost daunting. Where does one start? Our community is small compared to other campuses, but it it still fairly large for any one person to be capable of fostering “community.” Acts that foster a sense of community, though, are often small and personal. These acts, or rather the sentiment behind these acts, then snowball as others begin to treat those around them with similar sentiments.
One step towards achieving this is to remain informed about what is happening around campus and to be open to hearing people’s thoughts and feelings. Perhaps sitting and having lunch or dinner with someone you would normally say “hi” to but are not totally familiar with is a good way to start. This way you can have a conversation with someone in a more impromptu fashion and get a more genuine sense of who they are, what they are interested in and how they experience the Amherst community. This may be a challenging task, but it is worth the couple minutes of initial awkwardness to actually have a conversation that fosters more genuine closeness among Amherst students, faculty and staff.

Another simple act that can help foster community is to be courteous to Amherst workers. This may simply be thanking them for cleaning our bathrooms, serving and preparing our food, working to keep lawns, bushes and trees in good shape, keeping technology services running, or anything else that they are responsible for that keeps Amherst running the way it does. Often this work is underappreciated or taken for granted and it would be a huge step towards our goal of developing community if we were to acknowledge the hard, skilled and essential work that goes into keeping this college smoothly.

Often times the way we think about fostering community is through external acts towards others but it can also be helpful to be mindful of how we feel as individuals. Fostering community might also mean taking care of ourselves and making sure we are feeling well, safe and healthy. Understanding one’s emotions better, how to manage and navigate them, and how to keep a healthy balance between work, school and family and friends, can make us more efficient and doing better onto others.

In short, the following weeks will be tumultuous and difficult, not only because of the usual arrival of finals, but also because of the recent deaths that have shocked and saddened our campus. With that being said, it is within our reach to stand in community with each other. We have a responsibility at this time to care for ourselves, to care for our friends, to check up, check in, and try to be emotionally available for those in greater need. Sometimes this is as easy as introducing yourself to the person you get stuck with in an elevator ride. Sometimes it is harder, and we must be there for that too.