The Legacy of Community

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

I recently worked with a women's book club. They'd chosen of my three Legacy books, The Legacy Workbook for the Busy Woman. I invited them to read chapter 2, "Breaking the Silence..." and to write about one domestic activity they liked, and one they didn't.

These women are serious and diverse, suburban and materially comfortable. The book club began 20 years ago. The newest member had been coming for eight years. Some do full-time work outside the home and a smaller number were stay-at-home moms, all of them approaching or having arrived as empty nest pre-Boomers. They pride themselves as being a book club that really discusses the books they read; the over than 200 books they've read have expanded their perspectives to include most of the world spatially and throughout time.

Because they'd been together so long, I also invited them to write a paragraph or favorite story about the club itself. My hunch that the legacy of the club itself is profound for them turned out to be true. They wrote how when isolated as new neighbors they'd been invited to join at the shared mailbox at the end of the block. Some spoke of the enhancement of their lives through reading and hearing others share deeply in this, their only safe place. Reflecting, writing, and expressing added to their appreciation of the gifts the book club has given them -- sharing it aloud deepened their intimacy yet another level.

One woman shared the good news about her husband's life and voice; he'd just had a second surgery removing tumors on his thyroid and a nerve connected to his tongue. Another had just lost her beloved father and shared what it meant to her to see her father's nine healthy grown grandson pallbearers sobbing as they bore his casket. Another shared her pain and powerlessness to protect her biracial 15-year-old daughter who was called out by a teacher and came home saying she hated "all white people."

"Every person is defined
by the communities she belongs to."
-- Orson Scott Card

They shared their writing about domestic chores: hating when the task is unappreciated or taken for granted, but often enjoying a sense of completion especially when doing the task for themselves. Some especially enjoyed domestic tasks that make the world more beautiful. One club member passed her smart phone to show a picture of a "table-scape" she'd created for her goddaughter's wedding shower.

I was profoundly moved by the privilege of participating for an evening in such a book club, a real community of safety, support, and love, in which different perspectives and experiences were respected, appreciated, even honored.

"Communication leads to community;
that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing."
-- Rollo May

I share with you the power and perhaps the necessity of a community of women that gives us a place to thrive -- when our lives are full with personal blessings and curses and in a world more often than not, harsh, cruel, and dehumanizing. We see a world beginning to awaken to the brutality, harassment, and abuse of women. It's a relief to know that women know and have built for themselves communities of care, honesty, and openness.

What a legacy they leave for those who see them, know them, passing on to their children and grandchildren, the power and beauty of intimacy and caring.

Suggestions for Action:

1. Take some time to reflect about communities you belong to and note ways they help you thrive and ways you and your participation enhance each of those communities.

2. Reflect and write about what you value about domestic tasks (refer to Chapter 2 in The Legacy Workbook for the Busy Woman), women, book clubs if applicable, and communities.

3. Write a legacy letter to express your values, experiences, and learning about domesticity and/or communities, to a woman of a generation younger than you. Bless her with your opinions and feelings about the bonds possible between and among people different from you and her.

4. Explore ways to directly express appreciation and gratitude to the people in your communities.

May each of you value the communities you are a part of, may you express your appreciation. For those of you isolated, lonely, and lacking such community, I hope you will find, join, create, and build relationships so you will thrive and preserve for the future the strength of women trusting each other.

-- Rachael Freed

NEW: Webinar Workshop November 20, "Writing Love Letters to our Children II: From Generation to Generation." Contact Rachael for more information and registration Your Legacy Matters is now available everywhere. 2012 editions also available of Women's Lives, Women's Legacies, Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations, The Legacy Workbook for the Busy Woman, Heartmates: A Guide for the Partner and Family of the Heart Patient, and The Heartmates Journal. (All legacy books are also available as pdf's on Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker and adult educator. She provides programs, workshops, and training for financial, health, and religious organizations focused on legacy principles and practices. She has seven grandchildren. Her home is Minneapolis, Minn.

Follow Rachael Freed on Twitter: