I've been thinking a lot about the idea of community lately. There have been a lot of news stories talking about different communities. Some are geographic; others are ethnic. Some are based upon a common hobby or interest; others are religious. Sometimes the community comes together for celebrations. Sometimes you find out exactly how strong a community is because of a tragedy.
Our nephew recently learned an important lesson in community. It's not something I would have ever wished upon him, though. Jake plays for the Vikings Hockey Club at Arctic Ice in Orland Park. He has been flying on the ice since he was old enough to put on skates. A few weeks ago, a fellow hockey player was killed while riding his bike. Kelly Ryan was just 12 years old.
The initial shock turned into action for the extended Vikings team and Arctic Ice hockey community. The requisite Facebook page created a place for people to express their condolences and share stories. My sister-in-law said more than 200 cars were part of the funeral procession. At some point the funeral home director just stopped counting. At the funeral, the boys put up their hockey sticks as Ryan's coffin entered and exited the church. It was the hockey version of a military salute. At the cemetery, all the boys took off their jerseys and threw them on top of Ryan's coffin after it was lowered into the ground. It was an amazing show of strength and community from a group of 12 year olds.
I could had tears streaming down my face when my sister-in-law told me about the wake and funeral. When I was a sophomore in high school, four of my classmates died in one year. I knew exactly what Jake was going through, and I knew that nothing anyone could say or do would make it easier. Yet, as a community, they will heal and thrive. Our high school class made it through, and I know the Vikings hockey family will as well.
There are already signs of healing taking place. The VIkings family has mobilized to organize an event benefiting the Ryan family. The Vikings family has moved from shock to action.
I am not a person who believes that your community is limited to the neighborhood where you live. I'm someone who thinks you build your community through different connections you make throughout life. I'm glad Jake has the Vikings hockey family as part of his community. I hope that they all find peace and comfort together.
And someday, I hope everyone we know finds a place in a community that strong. To have that kind of support and caring in good times and bad is one of the great joys in life.
This was originally posted on the Chicago Moms Blog.