Sunday, April 28, 2013

More On The Online Community Experience

Earlier in the month, I wrote a post in which I reflected upon the affinity and sense of community I feel in the 'progressive blogosphere.' Prompted by the Internet connectivity problems I was having at the time, I wrote about how I felt a surprising sense of loss in not being able to read the people I follow, and discussed how I derive comfort and strength from the knowledge that a community of shared values exists, and that I am by no means alone in my desire for a better society.

This morning, I made a rather rare foray to church, accompanying my wife in her usual Sunday attendance at a local United Church service, prompted by the knowledge that the minister, a very progressive former Baptist, was going to talk about his recent trip to the Middle East occupied territories. While waiting for him to talk, I perused the church bulletin, and found something that I think is relevant to my deliberations about communities. The writer, Matthew Heesing, who is serving in Columbia, offered his reflections on the importance of 'presence,' something of real significance for me, I think, in the online community of which I am a part.

I reproduce the piece below, with no further comment.

April 28-Not Alone

When people ask me [why I am here in Colombia], I usually respond by saying that I'm here to build solidarity with the people and United Church partners of Colombia. But the phrase "build solidarity" seems to leave people with more questions than answers. And I understand why-it's more of an abstract concept than a tangible response ....

But now I realize that simply having someone stand with you can make all the difference in the world. And if you've ever been through an extremely rough time, or had someone close to you go through a life-shattering experience, you know what I mean. When you are going through a divorce, or have lost your job, or have had to say farewell to a loved one, or have been through any number of similar experiences ... you don't need someone with all the answers ....

There is such a power in presence. In just being with someone, whether it means standing with them, or walking with them, or sitting with them in silence, or just being with them, sharing life. Presence is powerful. When I arrived at the office of CEP ALC, my first full day in Colombia, I found a sign waiting for me in my office: "MATTHEW HEESING: Welcome to Colombia. Welcome to CEPALC. Thank you for your presence."

I don't for a moment pretend like I fully understand the complex realities of Colombia .... I can't even fluently speak the language. But, many times in life, that's not what is needed. Many times in life, what's needed even more is presence. Someone standing with you, walking with you, being with you ... helping you to know that you are not alone.


  1. Greetings!
    My name is Matthew Heesing, and the author of the above excerpt! I was surprised to see my own words in a local church bulletin...a wider search brought me here!

    I just wanted to share a fuller reflection, for your own interest--the cut-and-pasted version above is taken from a previous blog post of mine, which you can find here:

    Thanks for sharing, and I'm honoured to play a role in your reflections!


  2. Many thanks for writing, Matthew. I just went to your link, and your fully blog entry speaks powerfully to the role each of us can play in being present for others. Here in Canada, I think that presence is very much felt in so many ways - in the values we embrace as a society, the social programs that recognize the needs of our fellow men and women, and in each protest, blog entry and letter to the editor that sends out a powerful message of resistance to an agenda that would deny and destroy those opportunities for presence and solidarity.

    Thanks again for writing and providing us with the fuller context of your thoughts. I will later post a separate link to your blog entry.