community, love, and swirling stampedes of reindeer
Community can defined as "a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common." That definition can feel pretty broad knowing that community can look, act and feel quite different. Think about your own communities whether that's the one formed within your neighborhood, your career, your family, etc. One characteristic that stands true here at Rhone when one thinks about community is the idea that we can move further and move better, together. We recently sat down with our very own (and newly appointed) Boston Community Captain, Michael James, to hear first hand how he defines community and what it all means to him. Here is what he had to say.
Groups of reindeer, when faced with an external threat, begin to march in a swirling mass in a communal effort to protect their youngest, oldest and their sick. These individuals are kept safe in the center of the moving animals-–a stampeding herd of reindeer, swirling around their youngest or most vulnerable. It is a remarkable sight caught only a few times via satellite cameras. Nature’s own example of an animalistic, inherent instinct we have to take care of our community–to protect one another.
Humans, we do the same, don’t we? When someone is sick, or someone loses a loved one, we bring homemade meals, we sit in hospital waiting rooms, we pray, we rally together, we hold hands. A swirling stampede of love and support. It’s what we do.
Reflecting on my own personal relationships over the last year, I think about that herd of reindeer and those homemade meals… Why is it we sometimes feel the need for someone to be in distress or to receive awful news to take that step to make our support known?
I think three of the toughest words to say out loud are “I need help.” It’s become so easy, so commonplace, when we see someone within our community who looks a little down to ask, “How are you?” and to receive the simple, almost generic, “I’m good.” A simple interaction with little to no work involved. A brief moment of connection but nothing past the surface. ’m not quite sure we can brush this off so easily anymore… Especially with those closest to us.
I wrote about the importance of community and checking on one another briefly in the Spring of 2020, when the world was brought to its knees by an unseen force. The entire globe sat in stillness and while we were unable to be physically close to one another, we kept a sense of community through Zooms, distanced gatherings, and phone calls. After this trying couple of years, it is clear that the definition of community is not pigeonholed to physical proximity. Rather, it is a commitment to openness and an acknowledgement of the commonalities that we have with our fellow human beings; acknowledging all that is the same within us, while celebrating all that makes us beautifully different. Likewise, it is the responsibility that whatever community that we are a part of, whether that be our community of friends, family, our Crossfit gym, our neighborhood, our online community, that we commit to looking after one another.
As the Corporate Head Trainer of a handful gyms in Boston named EverybodyFights, I have seen firsthand what keeps our members coming back to our classes time and time again. It is not just the workout and the endorphins that follow (although that is great), it is the feeling that they are part of something bigger than themselves. A community where you are supported, loved and celebrated just for being who you are: every BODY, every RACE, every GENDER, every FITNESS LEVEL, every SEXUAL ORIENTATION.
So, as 2021 comes to a close and we begin a new trip around the sun together on this Earth, I reflect on how we can continue to build stronger bonds with one another, to foster deeper conversations and to show up vulnerably and authentically.
I move through life as a student, reading, writing, listening, learning, and while I still have so much to learn, this I know for sure. In the words of playwright Tony Kushner from his Tony Award winning play “Angels in America”: “The smallest indivisible human unit is two people, not one; one is a fiction. From such nets of souls societies, the social world, human life springs.”
No one fights alone. Let us commit to checking in with one another more this coming new year. Let us commit to being a swirling stampede of reindeer.