Living in Community

Aug 04

ChapelMy blog has focused on our travel and life adventures, but now that we are settled at Charlestown Retirement Community I am going to take a different tack.

Life in “community” is different from living in a single family home or even in an impersonal apartment building. We are now living in community with some of the same characteristics of life in a community setting such as a monastery. A monastic community comes to mind because I follow a blog, The Monk’s Chronicle by Fr. Eric Hollis. Dan and I met Fr. Hollis in the early days of the St. John’s Bible as well as participating in an Elderhostel on the St. John’s University campus years ago.

In one of his blog posts Downton Abbey Revisited he writes about some of the similarities of monastic life and the Downton Abbey life in the 1900s. Life here at Charlestown offers some similarities. I have bolded some important points.

“In short, life together demands the sacrifice of some personal liberties, as well as the adoption of a certain etiquette. And if these are skills that we may lack when we are clothed as a novice, they must become part of our skill set if we are to persevere to final vows. There really is no room for those who put themselves first, above everything and everybody else.

In a society in which increasing numbers live alone, the assumption is common that big households like Downton Abbey and monasteries are doomed to become fossils, and that community life will become extinct with them. But before we consign them to the boneyard, take a look at real estate trends in any major city, or even in small towns, for that matter. One feature of the construction landscape is a boom in retirement and assisted-living facilities. Some try to preserve a modicum of independent living, but anyone who moves in must adapt to a way of life that harks back to the great households that once bound generations and classes into one.

In these modern “great houses” no one can be the lone wolf around whom the entire building revolves. Instead, one becomes very much a part of a community, and in that community respect and mutual deference are prized skills. You had better bring them with you, if you intend to flourish in such an environment. So while some of us enjoy the third season of Downton Abbey, it might be wise to glean a few tips on successful community living as we watch. Who knows — they just might come in handy someday when we have to move into our own great house!”

The mission of Charlestown is We share our gifts to create a community that celebrates life. The community would not function very well without the hours of volunteers that post notices on the bulletin boards, run the elections, manage the huge operation of the Treasure Sale from cleaning out apartments, to pricing and sorting, to running a huge 3-day sale which rivals large thrift stores, to visiting and helping more frail residents. I found my niche by starting an Apple User Group and serving on the Website and Health Committees of the Resident Council.

We have a year under our belt now. Life is good.

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