It takes a community of people working together to make a community. And what, exactly is a community? Over the past several years, there have been a multitude of individuals lamenting the loss of community in our society. There seems to be a common sentiment that we have replaced an essential component of our lives - being part of a community - with a world of technological communication, and computer-generated encounters. One time, maybe ten or so years ago, I heard a pastor speaking about community. He was trying to encourage the congregation to realize how much richness of society has been lost with the absence of community- and began to describe his childhood memories of growing up in a tight-knit community. He shared story after story of dysfunctional situations, such as family fights and affairs, and child abuse among the neighbors that the entire community was privy to because they were always in each other’s business. It was not a compelling pitch for community, in fact, I felt like it did the opposite of what he intended - it made community look undesirable and intrusive. I still don’t understand why he would choose that manner in which to preface his sermon, but I do know that I have thought a lot about community in the ensuing years.
What does it mean to be part of a community? Different people might have different ideas about that. There was a time when I thought I knew. I thought I belonged to a very strong and supportive community - until I made the very difficult decision to end my abusive marriage. Suddenly I discovered I had been valued more for what I could do for others than for just being the person I am. When I suddenly stepped out of their realm of expectations - unconditional love and friendship went out the window. So had I experienced community? Nope. I was part of a group - and the desire to be part of something is certainly what triggers our need for community, I think, but when you have to meet the expectations of the group or you are cast out, or when you are welcome to join, but nobody is really interested in you beyond how you stack up against them, it is a group - and not a community .
When Sarah and I founded the Torch, the concept of community was not ever a part of our conversation. We just wanted to serve food to whomever came to the truck, without question or restriction. We were willing to work hard to reserve our judgment on people, and we were determined to be an unending source of hope. It wasn’t long after we started serving hot meals, and forming friendships and seeing friendships form, that we realized, in addition to providing food and other material items to people, we were providing the intangible and valuable sense of community. When people are at the food truck they all have something in common - and it might not necessarily be financial need. What they share is they have just gotten a pretty darn good meal for free from a food truck, and that often leads them to start conversations and build relationships with the other people standing or sitting around sharing a meal.
The concept of how powerful community is has grown tremendously in my heart and mind over this past year. The thing is - logistically, we are all part of this community. We can avoid it, distract ourselves from it, ignore it, and critique it - BUT - none of that changes the fact we are part of it and we need it. We need to care about other people. We need other people to care about us. We need to share in life experiences, be they eating at a food truck or uniting to help solve a societal problem. And I believe many of societal problems can and will be solved as we work to develop this sense of community. Because what I have seen develop out of the Torch are relationships that transcend merely showing up at the food truck on the designated day at the designated time. I have seen people who are from very different stages and walks of life encouraging each other on Facebook, and getting together outside of the event the Torch is promoting. I see people supporting other people - whether they are rich or poor, strong or weak, popular or unpopular. I see a coming together that defines community.
And that community is going to lead the way in showing the collective group of human beings who live in this area how important and powerful it is to form community. Because we are all going to work together to bring in all, yes ALL the people we know to help with Torch 180 in one way or another. It is a big undertaking which will serve an under-served population of people who likely will never be able to repay all the individuals, small businesses, and organizations who unite to make this dream a reality. Why? Because that’s what community does. As we have been strengthening and supporting each other - we have built an incredibly diverse community of people and a pool of talent that has tremendous potential to change society. Together, we will build awareness of the reality that over 60 percent of individuals with disabilities from 16-64 are unemployed. And we will attack that reality, beginning with Torch 180. The only way it can happen is through the efforts of a community.
So let’s get to work, because everyone needs what we have. They need to be part of a community of people who are not exactly like them, and who are going to light a fire in this county. Spread the word! Talk to everyone you know! We need money, a building, a commercial kitchen, and support. Let us know how YOU can help, because what you have to offer is valuable and necessary!
Torch 180 is going to be a restaurant/cafe/catering food service that employs people with disabilities. It is also going to be the result of a powerful community of Torch supporters and friends - and everyone. Spread the word to all the people you know, because the more people get involved, the more we will all - working together - be able to accomplish. I truly LOVE being part of the Torch and connecting with all of you awesome and amazing human beings who make this world the wonderful place it is. I can't wait for the day when we all gather together and celebrate Torch 180 - and begin to see even more lives transformed and our community become more diverse and populated.
There is much to do! Let’s get to work!!!!