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A Defining Moment

2012/04/01

com·mu·ni·ty

noun, often attributive \kə-ˈmyü-nə-tē\

plural com·mu·ni·ties

Definition of COMMUNITY

1 : a unified body of individuals: as

a : state, commonwealth

b : the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly : the area itself <the problems of a large community>

c : an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location

d : a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society <a community of retired persons>

e : a group linked by a common policy

f : a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests <the international community>

g : a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society <the academic community>

2 : society at large

3          a : joint ownership or participation <community of goods>

b : common character : likeness <community of interests>

c : social activity : fellowship

d : a social state or condition

The above definition, brought to us by the fine folks at Merriam-Webster, is what I want to talk about today. Community has meant many things to me over the course of my life, and it wasn’t until I reached my thirties did I ever truly understand what an impact that word could have on a life.

In a small part, I got a glimpse of what was to come when I was a teenager, but since I was still a forming human at the time, I don’t think it really connected to me. I was part of a community in high school; the theatre geeks. We worked toward common goals (building sets, TP-ing the director’s house, creating a rooftop patio, re-directing traffic, catching people in the act backstage, etc.), shared common interests (live expression of art, smart ass jokes, explosives, etc.) and supported each other in many ways (including the prevention of detainment for previously mentioned items). It was a golden time, and it was my first conscious experience with the concept of community.

Now, most people think of community in terms of geography. For instance, the Denver community is vastly different from its neighbors in the Boulder community or the Colorado Springs community. And there are those of think of community in terms of religion, as in the Christian community, the Jewish community and the Muslin community. And then there are the communities bound by economics, age, social standing, politics, and ideology. But what about the communities crossing all of these boundaries and still managing to find common footing?  That’s right, I’m talking about fandoms. You can find a Marvel fan in every corner of the globe, and from every walk of life, and they will be able to connect with every other Marvel fan, no matter the time and distance separating them. And for me, this is most true in the community I like to call home, the Star Wars fandom.

Whether you are fifty or five, if you love Star Wars, then we have something to talk about. And for many of us, we also have common goals. I also believe that I have an even richer experience within this fandom, because I am also a costumer in that amazing community. People who dress up in costumes from the movies, cartoons, novels and comic books, to have fun, to stay young, and to help others.

We are students, teachers, bankers, lawyers, physicists, IT professionals, artists, clerks, law enforcement, doctors, nurses, programmers, baristas, and every other job you can think of. We are parents, siblings, children, aunts and uncles, and we’re even grandparents. We are in every country in the world, from every political affiliation, every religion, and every race on the planet. And yet, we come together in our love for Star Wars, and work as one to bring that love and a little light into the world.

I should explain that last part a little more. Taking our cue from The Maker, himself, George Lucas, this community has been using our gifts and talents to give back to society at large, as well as helping our own through times of great need. Charity premieres, charity fundraisers, appearances at charity walks and runs, donating our time to raise money for causes great and small, this is what happens nearly every weekend of the year for the people in my community.

After the daughter of one of the 501st Legion’s founders became ill, both the Legions (The 501st & Rebel Legion), and everyone in the fandom, rallied behind him and his family to help them with expenses during their time of need. And from that horrible trial has sprung an amazing force for good in the form of Artoo-Katee. Working to spread awareness and to raise money for pediatric cancer, this little pink droid with a heart of gold has inspired thousands of Star Wars fans to raise money for various charities, including the Children’s Hospitals () and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. A testament to leadership through action, Albin Johnson set the standard for all of us to follow, and follow it we do.

Right now, there is another little girl we’ve all come to think of as a symbol of strength and perseverance. “Princess Leah” has won all of our hearts with her struggle, and in honor of that struggle there are probably a dozen events going on right now to help her family deal with the expenses of her care, including an art auction on eBay.

Star Wars fans have incredibly big hearts, as is demonstrated by our charity work, but it’s even more than that. Since finding this community I have grown as a person, as a productive member of society, and as a friend. Being a member of this community has given me support to do all of these things, and I have found so much strength from being with these amazing people. We share our lives with one another, both the good and the bad, and I count myself incredibly fortunate to be among them. With every wedding, with every baby shower, with every birthday, and with every funeral shared in my community, I am bound to them in a way rivaled only by the bonds of family.

Having a sense of community is one of the foundations of our humanity. Isolation and loneliness rob us of the ability to relate and rejoice in our lives. So, whatever it takes, seek out your community and embrace it. Love it for the good and the bad it brings into your life, because the lessons learned in your community and with your community shape your very existence. I have found mine… Where is yours?

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