When our website expert Pablo approached me about writing the inaugural post for THNA’s new blog, I honestly didn’t want to do it. He must have picked up on my reluctance because he persisted, saying he thought it would be good if I shared why it is that I’m part of THNA. Then he said, “You have a great story.” I had to think about that for a while, and then it occurred to me: every one of us has a great story.
If memory serves, it must have been about 18 or so years ago when I first got involved with THNA. My wife, Judy Wells, was so passionate about building community and believed THNA was an essential part of that effort. For years she did her best to get me to participate, but I wouldn’t have any part of it. I supposed because I’m shy at heart and an introvert. The thought of engaging with a socially oriented group made me very uncomfortable. Then one day my wife was struggling to put the neighborhood newsletter together and asked me if I would help. That was how it all began for me, and it was a slippery slope from there. Her love of community and dedication to THNA were infectious. I did the newsletter for a few years, one thing led to another, and eventually I wound up serving on the Board three or four times. When my wife was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in 2018 and then passed away a short year and a half later, I didn’t care a whole lot about anything at all, much less THNA. In 2020 the pandemic hit and as a result, THNA mostly fell by the wayside. But in December 2021, I got a group text from a Board member saying, “We need to have a Board meeting in January”. Heck, I had completely forgotten that I was still on the Board. I decided right then that I would announce at the meeting that I was resigning from the Board. It was as if my love of community had died with my wife.
So in January 2022, THNA’s first Board meeting in a couple of years convened in my front yard. By that time the current president had moved out of the neighborhood and another Board member had dropped out as well, which left only five of us to do the work. I figured it best to wait until the end of the meeting to drop the news about my resignation. Anyway, we decided the purpose of the meeting should be to ask the tough questions: Are we up to the daunting task of rebuilding, reorganizing, re-energizing, and re-engaging? Or is it time for THNA to come to an end? During the meeting, one of the Board members turned to me, “Would you please be president until the annual meeting in September?” When I finally picked myself up off the ground, I said “okay”. Leading the organization was definitely the furthest thing from my mind. However, the thought of allowing THNA to go away did not sit right with me. I couldn’t help but think about my late wife and how much this community and THNA had meant to her for so many years.
Fast forward to July and another Board meeting. By this time only four of us remained on the Board. It felt like we were in a losing battle. And with the Annual Meeting looming around the corner, our backs were against the wall to either recruit new Board members right away or again consider the agonizing possibility of dissolving THNA. Janet Grojean (whom I affectionately refer to as THNA’s energizer bunny) looked at me and asked, “Would you be president?” What? Are you kidding me? No!!! For some reason, my thoughts once again turned to my wife, to how much she had loved this community, and to her belief in the importance of THNA. In that moment I realized it’s that love and belief which inspire me to serve our community as best I can.
I believe that service to community is a commitment that reaches far beyond any self-interest or social activity. It’s many small actions that create connectedness. Each invitation we extend, each conversation we have, each kindness we do for others, each thoughtful manner in which we engage with our neighbors builds the structure of belonging, the structure of community.