Saturday, September 15, 2007


When we moved to this city, we knew nobody here. The first winter that we spent here with a 2-year-old son was a lonely one. We were as cut off from our support network as we had ever been.

That was 10 years ago. Our toddler is now 12, and he's been joined by two London-made siblings. We've made friends, and in doing so have turned the original loneliness of this place into something warmer and homier.

But we still have no family here. Indeed, the closest family worthy of mention is an eight-hour drive from here. So when Zach, the aforementioned no-longer-toddler, broke his leg and ended up in the hospital on Monday, we wondered what we were going to do with the other two kids and our dog. Leaving them in front of the supermarket apparently wasn't an option.

We needn't have worried. Our close friends opened their doors to our little folks and shooed us on our way, telling us not to worry about a thing. Our voicemail filled with messages from families offering any help they could share. E-mail and instant messages kept my BlackBerry humming all day and all night. My blog and Facebook pages were similarly overtaken by words of support and comfort. Laura's daughter called her at work and asked her to send a YouTube link to a Muppets video to him. Readers from around the world have virtually signed his cast.

It's hard to put into words how it feels to be on the receiving end of such an outpouring. We've always gone about our life in a fairly quiet manner, trying to avoid attracting too much attention to ourselves. Having everyone come up to me in the pickup line after school represented a bit of a change from my usual routine, and I'm still not sure I quite know how to respond without seeming overwhelmed by it all.

But as humbled as I feel at all the attention, I am immensely comforted that we're surrounded by so many kind-hearted folks who would think nothing of dropping everything to be there for us. It reminds me once again that the world has far more good than bad, and that life challenges like this are often thinly veiled opportunities to appreciate the best in humanity in ways that wouldn't be apparent on a more routine day.

Sometimes, it takes a bit of a shock to the system to realize just how lucky we are to be surrounded by such goodness.

Your turn: What does your network look like? Why do informal community support networks matter as much as they do?

One more thing: Please accept my heartfelt thanks for your write-on-Zach's-cast suggestions in an earlier blog entry. If you haven't yet submitted your virtual cast signing, please click here and share a thought. I've been reading them to Zach, and your words have helped bring smiles to his face.


shoeaddict said...

Here from Michele's to say a few things. 1st- Why can't you drop them off at the grocery??? I kid, I kid!! I know how it feels to be surrounded by virtual love. Tis week my health has been poor and I've been to see the doctor twice. I need an MRI to rule out a brain mass and when I put that on my blog, my friends and readers freaked out more than I had!!

I've recieved comments and emails that are so kind and supportive.

I am so sorry about Zach's leg. I hope all is better in your world soon. I'm so glad that your friends have rallied around you and yours to make things easier. You would do the same for your friends though, Carmi!!

Sara said...

Hello! Michele sent me this time!

Of my 61 years, almost 50 were spent in Florida. Then I met someone and together we moved to Tennessee. We made a few friends but not many. Then four years ago we moved here to New Hampshire! Like you, we didn't know anyone.

Because I quilt, I joined a small quilting group and slowly began to make friends among them.

This past December when my relationship fell apart and we decided that after ten years we would go our own way...I was amazed at the friends I had. Not only those friends I can touch in person but the friends I've made through my blog. I've never been so supported...I didn't have this many real friends after living in Florida for 50 years!

Anonymous said...

When I lived in California, I hardly knew any of my neighbors. We would always wave if we happened to see them, but I don't think I could tell you the names of the people who lived next door to us.

When we moved to Georgia, we settled into a Navy town. Many of the men go out to sea for months at a time. The Navy wives band together to help out in any way possible. I'm lucky to live on a street where, for the most part, everyone is friendly. Quite often we have neighborhood barbecues or get togethers. We have each others names listed as emergency contacts for schools. The support is phenomenal.

And it feels really good to know, that if I need it, someone has my back.

November Rain said...

virutally sign a cast cool Michelle sent me over to do that

BreadBox said...

I feel for you -- and know exactly what you mean about not having family close by: our nearest family members are 8+hours away too (in their cases flying, but other than the cost, once you are that far away time is a huge issue).
We are very jealous of friends who have family nearby, built in babysitters, helpers in times of trouble, etc... And it doesn't help that LOML and my brothers and sisters all live five minutes from our respective parents, so *their* grandchildren get all the grandparental care and attention!

We too have been fortunate to make new families --- they really are family rather than just friends --- here. We can't call on them as often as we might on "blood" families, but they are there for us when we need them.
Wingeing over. Good luck with the leg, Zach!

Michele sent me, since it's a weekend!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I am lucky enough to have family -- on both sides -- nearby. About 45 minutes away, in fact.

But that doesn't mean I rely on my friends more than I do my parents. I know exactly what you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear your son is doing ok. Michele sent me to see how things were going.
I live far away from what little family I have - though my ex's family - outlaws?- do live closeby & are still an adopted family of sorts along with various friends I've accumulated over the years.

kenju said...

My network has shown it's face recently, since Mr. kenju had a stroke and was in the hospital. Numerous cards, letters, emails and phone calls have helped us weather the storm. And the support from bloggers is almost overwhelming and we are both gratified by the response. As mr. kenju said this morning, when I told him about all the comments...."But, these people don't even know me!" and I replied, "No, but it doesn't matter. They wish you well, just the same as if they did."

flleenie said...

In 1993 I moved from Massachesetts to Florida; I only knew 1 person. I was lonely as heck for the first few months. I have met some awesome people. I am so glad I stuck it out, now I'm married with children. My friends are my family & have been for years. We are always there for each other, in happiness & sorrow. We celebrate holidays together; you know, family stuff. In 2001, my sister moved here with her kids, so now, I have relatives living nearby. Close friends,, close friends...Is there a difference? Not to me...

Anonymous said...

Close friends are much more than family. I have even seen that when one least expects, complete strangers go out of their way to help. There are more good people in this world than we realise.

Moral support goes a long way. In India, the neighbours can be irritating sometimes but they even provide food etc 24/7 in the hour of need. When my dad was in the hospital, folks willingly donated blood for him. Those I did not know at all.

In my country no one can feel lonely. The people don't let you!!

Michele must like it that I go on and on on your blog. Why would she send me here otherwise?

Lori said...

Though my nearest family only live 1 1/2 hrs away, it's still too far when you need help in a pinch. When I was a single mother I had a network of WONDERFUL friends and neighbors who helped me out more than I can say. They became like family and they were truly lifesavers. Living in this community for six years, we had to start over and have a new 'family' who helps - and whom we help - through the good and the bad.

The outpouring of love towards you and your family speaks loudly of the goodness of others...but it also speaks towards your kindness also. The Golden works well.

tommie said...

Building that network of friends is the hardest thing I have to do every time we move. But because most of our neighbors are in the same boat as us, it has almost become second nature. Sometimes we meet up again with people we were stationed with years before.

But most importantly I can say at every duty station we have made lifelong friends....friends in Oklahoma, Alaska, California, Kansas, back to Oklahoma again, and now Texas.

It is good to be surrounded by the friends you choose to make a part of your family.

scrappintwinmom said...

First let me say that after I posted to your blog yesterday my mother broke her ankle - and sprained her other ankle. The fun never ends.
To answer your question, I have four friends that I've known since I was 15 - that's my "network". My friend's father is dying as we speak, and at times like this, we are always there for each other and it brings great comfort.
I'll sign Zach's virtual cast ASAP.

Anonymous said...

So glad to hear that you have discovered the hidden support structure around you and your family Carmi. It IS a good feeling isn't it?

Folks like you have a tendancy to give and not even be aware that the love is there to be returned. I'm glad you got a full on view of it this week.

My prayers are for your sons speedy recovery of limb!

sage said...

Here from Michele's tonight-I am glad you've been surrounded with goodness in this hour of need and may Zach quickly get better

CG said...

I think you and yours more than deserve the love and support you get. You make time for people, you think the best of people and it is being rewarded!

awareness said...

Hi Carmi.....

What great comments wonderful to know that community is alive and well...

I fully agree with Sarch, Carmi when he stated that you may not even be aware of how much you give. I can't tell you how much your feedback on my writing has meant to me.....

Your writing and what you share tells all of us how connected and in sync you are with the people in your life. :)

Like you, my husband and two kids and I live far away from family. I also remember vividly how lonely it felt when we first moved here (sans kiddies at that point). However, that changed pretty quickly and we are surrounded by friends whom we could always call in a pinch.....and visa versa. My kids are their kids and their kids are mine. I LOVE the fact that some of my friends kids will share their hearts with me as they begin the journey through adolescence. My daughter and son also have developed special relationships with adults whom they have connected with and I know they share stuff with them.

It's a wonderful feeling isn't it?

rashbre said...

Sorry to hear about the fracture; they always say that the first week or two of school restarting are the worst for breakages and similar.

The green plaster is cool. And I suppose the break is part of growing up.

Good to hear of all of the support.

Shephard said...

Informal networks are all some folks have. . . it's the value we place on traditional ones that makes them different... or the same. :)

I'm going to email this to a friend who just moved, who might benefit from reading your well-crafted words.

(and you can visit my blog as often as you like and I won't brand you a stalker, lol).


mckay said...

so sorry to hear about your boy's bad break. your extended family and support group is a wonderful surprise and i'm sure you already know you are very blessed.

me? both my parents are dead and my sole support as far as family goes is my sister. we live close, which is fantastic for both of us.

friends....leave me perplexed. most deserted me when my ex and i divorced. making new friends is a lot easier when you're a kid.