Even NASCAR Has Some Good In It

Community: It’s a word we hear and use often. Most of us have an idea of what it means. At the very least, we know if we live in a “covenant-protected community”, especially if you’ve ever gotten a nasty letter demanding you change the color of your house to beige from what you thought was a lovely shade of chartreuse after your neighbors disagreed.

Although the word seems ordinary enough, do we really understand what the word community means? And, why is it important that we do, anyway? For starters, I turned to good ol’ Merriam-Webster for some help.

Community: a unified body of individuals as a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.

Somehow, the definition left me feeling unsatisfied. Community, it seems, is much more. It seems to me that community is much more powerful, magical, and interesting than the standard dictionary definition. Community springs out of nowhere and brings together those who might otherwise never associate. Community is a phenomenon more than it is a thing.

Confession: One thing I have never understood is the draw that people have to NASCAR racing. Unfortunately, I seem to be the only one in my family who has trouble understanding the attraction. Recently, however, I had the opportunity to get a glimpse of its appeal. I accompanied my family to Las Vegas where my sister was making her foray into racing a small, slightly-larger-than-a-go-cart race car. Now, I can’t say I was interested so much in the actual activity of racing; however, I was interested in supporting my sister and her new adventure. What I didn’t expect was that I would catch a glimpse of one of the most powerful draws to racing: community.

It was fascinating to watch so many people unite for such a simple idea: to make a car go as fast as it could in a giant oval. On my sister’s crew alone, there had to be at least 10 people along with several onlookers such as myself. One person’s job may have been to monitor the condition of the tires, another the performance of the engine, and another to make sure that the thermonuclear-antihistaminic-super-conductive-flux-capacitor was in normal range. Okay, so I don’t know exactly what everyone was doing, but everyone had a job. My job was to stand around sampling items from the refreshment table. Nevertheless, there was a certain excitement in the air, a certain palpable nature to it. There was no struggle as to who was going to be driving, who got to tighten the flooglenuts or loosen the whizhoppers. Everyone was simply having a good time working together for a single cause.

Perhaps this is what the ancient teachers were describing in the Good Book so many hundreds of years ago. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”… If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Hundreds of miles from home, a community had been created under the cause of helping my sister be as successful as possible in her rookie laps around the track. Indeed, it was almost magical — the creating of a certain kind of body functioning towards accomplishing one purpose. Community can happen anywhere. As I recently witnessed in a weekend seminar, Community can be created in just a couple of hours. In a group of over an hundred participants, we each shared the difference we were committed to making in the world. Within minutes, we had found supporters, connections, new ideas, and strength — in an empty, plain, beige meeting room. Indeed, we created community out of nothing. Soon, participants were talking about building new healing facilities, running for public office, writing books and screenplays, and transforming attitudes and habits in their workplaces. Surrounded by people united around the question “what is possible?” was enough to make grandiose ideas seem popular, to bring a hope to the brokenhearted, and a smile to the depressed. It was obvious that the power of community was much more than the dictionary definition.

Community has the power to heal. Community has the power to create. It has the power to bring hope to the sad and depressed, inspiration to the discouraged, and zest to the lonely. Community, in fact, may be one of the most powerful forces at work in the Universe. Upon closer examination, community isn’t just a simple dictionary definition at all. It is a phenomenon that can occur in a moment and create magic and opportunity. What’s possible with community? Almost anything.

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Jeremy Savage, MA, LPC

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