Sun City: A View Through Rose Colored Sunglasses

Photo WCS Rocks N83 Joy

It’s Disneyland without the lines! It’s a cruise without the ocean! It’s spring break with better booze! And, up until its total shutdown in March due to COVID, this 55+ community was in full swing, with residents’ social schedules overflowing with events.

The 60 charter clubs, with yearly dues of only $10, enticed you to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. The golf courses, swimming pools, outdoor sports, hiking trails and exercise classes spurred you to get up and get moving. It was hard to decide what shows, concerts and movies to attend. The neighborhood representatives that lead each community worked with their various committees and planned activities.

Sun City is not for everyone. While nonconformists would deplore the many rules, procedures, guidelines and policies that need to be followed, sticklers welcome the regulations that keep everything running like a well-oiled machine and looking just right.

Leave it to some energetic, creative neighbors of mine to not let anything get in their way of camaraderie. In the spirit of friendship, they maneuvered around set protocols to come up with some resourceful ideas:

Takeout Thursdays
In an attempt to support neighborhood restaurants and have a little something to look forward to, our neighborhood representative introduced Takeout Thursdays. Early each week, a restaurant was chosen and its menu was emailed to all. Orders were sent in and the restaurants were all too happy to deliver directly to anywhere from 60-75 doors.

Chalk Talk
When her students were bored at recess, a retired teacher remembered their delight when she first said “Let’s talk with chalk!” She wanted to rekindle that feeling with her neighbors.

Excited, she emailed her neighbors an invitation to come to her driveway and “chalk talk.” Before she knew it, pictures, inspirational messages and poems adorned her driveway. In between the creative process, there was even some social distance visiting.

The Friendship Bench
Every time she would walk past her neighbor’s front yard, it would remind her of a similar setting in her previous home, which had the added feature of a lovely old bench.

Knowing her neighbor was a woodworker, she asked if he could build her a bench. What she didn’t know was that he had put himself through college as a boat carpenter, so was not intimidated in the least to take on the project with only a photo to work with. Since she was only used to painting very small images, it took a couple of weeks for her to teach herself to paint the larger images of poppies on the bench.

This labor of love was finally completed and positioned in its place of honor, under the shade of a beloved tree. They then emailed the entire neighborhood and extended an invitation from them both, to come by and sit a spell on the friendship bench, whenever the spirit moved them.

Painted Rocks
At the onset of COVID, an artistic neighbor began the undertaking of anonymously leaving a painted rock outside every home in our neighborhood. Little did she know that her creations would take on a life of their own.

The bereaved woman that stepped out of her home and found a rock that said “Faith.” An ill neighbor that looked down and saw the rock with “Hope” written on it. It was awe inspiring how these rocks, with just the right comforting sentiments on them, seemed to find the spot where they belonged.

In the meantime, almost overnight, painted rocks started to appear on our community’s walking path. No one seemed to know who was creating them (our neighbor says it wasn’t her), which made the upbeat, faith based and funny messages all the more enchanting. You couldn’t help but smile and sometimes, laugh out loud as you passed them.

Who would ever think that something as simple as rocks could soften the sharp edges of our current isolation? Or, that even though the rain had washed away all those good chalk talk wishes, it didn’t dampen the spirits of this close-knit community.

Photo WCS Rocks Path 1

Author’s Note:
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In Search of Our Soul Tribe

Photo Soul Tribe

In high school, we were the mighty 13. Our claim to fame were the dance numbers we would create. “West Side Story’s” “Gee, Officer Krupke” won us first prize at the school talent show. I remember, fondly, one rainy Saturday afternoon, when all 12 gathered in my basement to help me prepare oak tag signs for my bid for class President and then returned the next week to console me when I wasn’t elected.

Back then, my best friend and I decided to create code names using our initials to ward off any security breaches as we passed notes back and forth; hers was Ellen (L.N.), mine was Elsie (L.C.). When we needed to see each other to share the ups and downs of teenage girlhood, we would call each other and say “…Meet S.S…,” then both run to our secret spot and find the other sitting in the branches of the old gnarled tree we both always loved.

How did we all lose touch? Sometimes I wonder why all those experiences and memories didn’t do a better job of cementing us together. I admire those people that have kept up with everyone that has ever touched their lives. I wish I was one of them, but then I am reminded that it does take two to tango. While the idealist in me hates to let people go, the logical side says three strikes, you’re out; the gentler side of that meaning is that after three times, the pattern will deliver its own message.

It is said that you become the company you keep and in the broader sense I can see that. Socializing with vibrant, positive thinkers, will most likely, ignite those passions within you. But, let’s not forget about the yin and yang; contrasting personalities can fortify and compliment who we are and take us places we would never have dreamed of going alone. A symbiotic relationship packs the one-two punch of inspiration plus confidence and reminds us that there is strength in numbers.

Acquaintance, friend, pal, soul mate; at any given time in our lives, I see now that we tend to acquire just what we need. Did you ever meet someone by chance and just know that they were meant to be a part of your life? That spark that instantaneous bond can transform a stranger into a kindred spirit. Were you ever surprised that a rekindled friendship would start back up right where it left off without missing a beat?

Be open to those around you; you never know who fate might link you to. Be receptive and get to know people different from yourself. Be bold (even if it means going it alone) and step into new experiences. Be the one who can say to themselves “…I’ve made the most of every opportunity that came my way…” Somewhere between want and need, the perfect connections will arise.

All those years ago, I would never have imagined that, in time, those strong bonds of friendship would all but vanish. Maybe they were making way for new relationships that needed to be cultivated, new adventures that would lead to chance encounters. Maybe it was the universe’s way of reminding me that as one door closes, another opens.

Being a part of a community, something bigger than ourselves, and delighting in that camaraderie is what it’s all about. Those special relationships bring to mind a prayer that St. Francis of Assisi wrote over 700 years ago when he reminds us “…to be understood as to understand, to be consoled as to console, to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that we receive…”

We’re never sure how all the pieces fit together; how people from different walks of life, whom we meet at different times and places just seem to complete our puzzle. It’s that strong esprit de corps that fortifies us, motivates us to continue our journey and keeps us on the lookout for new members of our soul tribe.