After the national InterPlay Leaders Conference I’m racing around, trying to gather my belongings while the woman providing a ride to the airport waits outside. A couple of friends observing my movements begin teasing me about my quirky habits, like the way I gird myself with my purse so my hands are free as I move across the retreat center campus. As I am packing my carryon bag a song begins running through my head, “They’re gonna miss me when I’m gone. They’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.” This makes me laugh and causes my mind to move forward in time, to when I’m no longer able to be with this loving community in body.
I reconnect with my friends on the way to the parking lot and sing them my song, changing it a bit to include them, “They’re gonna miss us when we’re gone. They’re gonna miss us when we’re gone.” I tell them that members of the community will tell stories about us after we die. “And since we’re not finding a cure for cancer, we won’t make the history books. These stories will be our legacy in the world.” My friend Phil laughs and suggests, “Maybe we should have them (the community members) start practicing the stories now!”
This song, this recognition of being in a community that cares for one another, that brings out the best in one another, seems an answer to a deep desire of my youth. I remember reading about writers and artists and scientists who ended up individually making huge and lasting contributions to the world. It turns out they knew each other, associating with one another in Paris cafes or Sunday afternoon salons, during formative periods in their lives. They provided mutual support, inspiration, and challenge for one another, as people and as creative art and science makers. Even as a teenager with little experience of my own I knew that they were each made better by these associations. A friend taught me an African saying that seems to fit this group-as-incabator-of-the-self model.” “I am because you are.”
Another friend turned me on to a TED talk that seems relivant here. http://blog.ted.com/2012/06/29/cancer-in-context-mina-bissell-at-tedglobal-2012/
Mina Bissell’s insight is that cancer development might be caused by context and architecture. When they injected a cancer cell into chickens it caused cancer but when they injected it into chicken embryos it didn’t. This suggested that, “the micro-environment in which the cancer cell resides dominates the cancer gene itself.” In the lab, growing cancer cells on a healthy scaffolding enabled them to become normal again.
Like at a well-run boys and girls club, scout troupe, or sports team, individuals meet in an environment that provides the scaffolding for healthy behavior. As the older, more experienced members interact with the newbees, they each become more than they were, growing and developing strengths and skills. Hanging out with my InterPlay friends has helped me to sing. “I am because you are.”