I spend my summers working in Grand Teton National Park, as many of you know, and every time I arrive I am struck by how much coming here feels like coming home. The place itself is incredibly special to me, of course – the mountains right outside my window, the small cabin I get to live in on Guides’ Hill, the family history – but more than that, it is the people here that keep me coming back. They are why I rearrange everything else in my life so that I can spend each summer working in the office of Exum Mountain Guides.
And that makes me think just how lucky I am! To have this fabulous community of really interesting and caring people that I get to be a part of every summer. Trust me, climbing guides and the folks who work in the Exum Office are extremely interesting! We laugh that you have to be a certain sort of “weird” to fit in here. But most importantly, everyone here has everyone else’s back. Even though we often disagree. Even though there are lots of different, and valid, opinions about how we should do things, both on and off the mountain. Even though we come from all over the country, have different interests, different levels of experience, and different beliefs – but we all love being in the mountains and being a part of this “family.”
I think that wherever we can find or create communities like this – where people keep coming back year after year, where we usually manage to work out our differences, where we make the effort to be active participants – we should not take them for granted. Our modern society doesn’t exactly lend itself to creating such communities – we can easily go from our home to our car to our work and back again without ever stepping foot outside or interacting with our neighbors. Or we can be surrounded by people, but never talk to them as we’re all focused on our phones.
But we humans do best when we’re part of a community. We are not anti-social creatures, and we need other people to fully be ourselves. I know that coming to Exum every year allows me to grow, and stretch, and deepen my relationships to others and to myself. I’m grateful for that, and that’s a big part of why I put in the effort to come here every summer.
Indeed, at times we have to be very intentional about creating community. I have a coaching client who recently realized that the small town in which she lives is simply not conducive to her meeting the kinds of people she wants to be around – and she just took the leap of putting her house up for sale so that she can move to a bigger city. And my uncle Peter (who introduced me to the Exum community) has reconnected with a wonderful circle of retired climbing guides by moving to Ouray, Colorado for the winter.
Sometimes you do have to be in (or move to) a particular place to find the type of community you’re looking for – and sometimes it’s about making the connections right where you are. Either way, whether you have a strong community or are creating one for yourself, it is worth cherishing.
“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”
― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth