“What’s Happenin’ – by poet Peggy Trojan


What’s Happenin’
Peggy Trojan

Selma Makkela
printed all the news fit to print.
The Hemmilas had a boy,
Erickson’s cow was hit by lightening,
The Polks motored to Chicago
for their grandson’s graduation.
Nothing to cause you anger
or “take to bed worry.”
When you saw Willard
at the feed store, you could ask how
Mildred’s broken leg was coming along,
send an anniversary card
to the Mattsens,
keep an eye out for
Johnson’s lost calico cat.
The news connected you
to community,
safe in the knowledge
you were informed enough
to know just what
was going on.

Peggy Trojan retired from teaching English to the north woods of Wisconsin.
She enjoys quilting, gardening, picking berries, and writing poetry. She is a
member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.

I had an aunt, Edna Johnson, who also “printed all the news fit to print” in the Door County Advocate. When I would travel all the way from Green Bay to Ellison Bay (!) to see her for the weekend – about 80 miles – she’d make sure she mentioned that in her column. Everything was newsworthy, and we had to wait for news – wait for news to be published. That’s hard to believe for those of us who receive news every moment, at our fingertips.

But have we lost our sense of community, a community that cares, a community that takes notice, a community of real people, not “bits of information?” For as easy as information is to receive these days, connection does not seem easy to receive.

“Something’s lost, and something’s gained, in living every day…” from “Both Sides Now,” written by Joni Mitchell.


Share resources


Yesterday I followed another car for about a mile, stopping at stop lights long enough for the logo in block print on the trunk to register with me: “Wheels when you need them.” City-cars are vehicles you can rent for a few hours or a day, only when needed. In some cities, parking is almost impossible for residents, in San Francisco, for example. Car-sharing of any sort is needed, to be sure.

A long time ago, an acquaintance mentioned his idea that tools and other implements could be shared, from neighbor to neighbor. For example, let’s say you need a lawn mower. Maybe one person on your block owns a lawn mower, so you use it when you need it, then return the lawn mower in the condition you received it. Why, my acquaintance asked, did every house on the street need a lawn mower, or a rake, or a bush trimmer? Why, indeed?

A close friend of mine “rents” her car to a friend one day a week. He has a set of keys, arrives at her house before she leaves for work on the regular day, and uses the car for the day to do errands, to take care of business he can’t make happen easily without a car. No, he doesn’t need a car all the time. No, it’s not a problem for my friend to walk to work on the day her car is otherwise in use. She gets to enjoy the mile walk down an interesting street to her office. At the end of the day, her friend fills the tank with gas and returns the car to its usual place in the driveway. Often, the two don’t see each other for weeks at a time.

Share resources. Such a simple idea. Share resources. Something we have not been accustomed to doing, in our consumer-driven, “each person for him/her self” culture. Why not share the resources we can? Deciding how to share resources can be a community decision. Why not have a few folks from the neighborhood over for a cup of tea one evening to share some ideas. “How can we share resources, the resources we already have?” In community, in a group, our ideas build on the ideas of others, and new ideas arise. This is how group-think works!

Maybe you’ve seen pictures or even a movie that portrayed “barn-raising.” Sometimes in the U.K. the day-long event was called a “raising bee.” On a given day, the community came together to build a barn – an essential for rural life, for animals and crops – to use the resources of the whole community. This custom still takes place in Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities in parts of the U.S. In depictions of “barn raisings” I have seen, the men work all day, “raising the barn,” while the women and children buzz around below, the women lifting colorful cloths from baskets filled with abundant food. All day, the men take time from their work to eat the wonderful food. At the end of the day, musicians magically appear to make music, and the worn-out workers, men and women, find second wind to dance into the night. That’s community. That’s sharing resources.

Sometimes it seems that we are people who have lost our creativity, as if we are marching along, all to the same, droning drummer. To share resources will require some creative thinking on our parts. We’ll have to begin to envision our resources and their use differently.

We’ll have to ask one another for help.

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It takes a community


Hands on a globe

It takes a community.

As long as I’ve been an adult I’ve been reminded, again and again, of how individualistic Western society is. Surely, individualism is the seed of entrepreneurship. Each one of us has gifts, talents, smarts that we cannot contain within ourselves. Our talents are necessary for the whole community to flourish.  However, when we allow our individualism to isolate us, to deprive us of the creative ideas of others, to turn us into combative souls, vying for space and resources and goods, then we have allowed individualism to destroy us.

As the leader of a faith community for many years, I learned what community can give. Community breaks isolation. Community is a place where others know your name. Community is the place where you are asked: “how are you?” and the question is for real. Community is the place where folks are genuinely concerned for “the other.” Community is the place where transitions – death, loss, change – are honored. Community is the place where it is safe to come when you are lonely. The people in community are the ones you call when you are sick and need a ride, or when you have a question to ask about some practical matter. Community is the place where an idea may arise that you didn’t have – an idea that solves your problem.

It takes a community to break down the barriers of individualism, those high walls we have so often built around ourselves. I expect that there is a “feel” to community – a “feel” of safety, of boundaries, of being connected, a feel of being solid. That “feel” comes from the presence of other people, other people who look out for you – just as you look out for them.

Sometimes, a neighborhood is a community. A neighborhood where others know what’s going on, a place where folks come out from their homes onto the street when something happens. A place where people know who lives here and who doesn’t. A neighborhood can be the place where the owners of the shops are also part of the network of relationships.

It takes a community. If you are isolated today, then I invite you to start – NOW! – to look for a community. Find a place where others have your interests. Find a place where you meet like-minded people. Find a place where people are having fun. Find a place where someone thinks to ask your name, to extend a hand. Next time, you can be that person for someone else.

As the world gets smaller through technology, travel and changing populations, our own community gets bigger.  The folks we are in conflict with are across the globe.  What used to be turf protection in one place involves the politics, economics, histories, and conflicts of many places.  Your community, and mine – for better or for worse – is the world.  Can we live in community with one another?  It takes a community.