It was Greg, and Tom, and Eric, and Brad, and Scott, and Mike and all the kids and a few others and all the wives. We hiked to the top of the Sand Dunes National Park. Not an easy climb given the steep slope of sand. At the top Eric and I hit golf balls and almost killed his son with a 7-iron 600 yards down by the creek where the wives were preparing lunch. We played football and drank Corona’s till the sun’s setting brought out the cold and mosquitos. That weekend, like the 20 others like it, was awesome. Thanks to our friends the Nixons who took the lead in coordinating the trip every year.
Easter Sunday brought the gang together every year. We’d trade off taking turns on who would host the post-church event. We’d start to arrive at 1:00and everyone would bring a dish or two. In the early years there were some games. But the egg (candy) hunt was the highlight. When my son was 3, I was in charge of watching him – which I did from afar. He plummeted from the jungle gym and broke his leg and I, uh, well, let’s just say I was in the doghouse for a bit. The dozen-plus families have continued this for 20+ years.
Every Santa Lucia holiday, my Swedish wife would put together a smorgasbord for our friends that included Swedish meatballs, sill, bockling, honey-baked ham, glogg, beer, wine, and of course, aquavit. The singing of Helan Gar and the raucous hilarity and Jimmy’s annual costume surprise has been a staple of our group for 20 years.
Last year, the gang of 20 of us went to France for a week on a barge trip. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in my life. While we biked along the canal, and tromped around the vineyards, and indulged (or over-indulged) on gourmet lunches and dinners, we put a capstone on a life-long community of friendships.
Girls nights out. Guys nights out. The time that the guys coordinated a treasure hunt that sent the women all over the city that ended up at a picnic in the foothills.The 4th of July parties – wow. The myriad sporting events because the families grew up together. The countless dinners together, graduation parties, engagement parties, and weddings.The examples go on – as does life.
Here’s the thing guys, community is not some tired out old slogan that you hear at church. A movie theater full of people is not a community. A church isn’t necessarily a community. It takes relationships – deep, deep relationships to make a community. And deep relationships take time. So you need to start working on building those relationships and figuring out how to break down the walls – your’s and theirs. But community isn’t all just fun and games. Sometimes it’s life-saving support.
My buddy and his wife confronted a situation that they couldn’t fathom when their youngest was 18 months. She somehow got cancer and it threw them into immediate turmoil. Even though they had a big family to draw on, it was their friends that picked up the pieces so that their oldest two daughters had clean clothes, had lunches, got to school on time. Their friends kept the house together, did laundry, made sure that things kept functioning while providing them with ears to hear and shoulders to lean on. Only a developed community could have done that. This calamity saved our friends and brought us together as a community.
Over the next 20 years of your life, you will be confronted with the opportunity to participate in events, dinners, and gatherings that act as opportunities to gather couples into your sphere. At some point, someone is going to have to take leadership in coordinating something that creates a group. Mike and Nanci had game night. That was awesome. Caren and Brad coordinated camping. My wife had the Swedish party. All the ladies coordinated Easter. These are the times that knitted my family together and all the families into a community.
Why did it happen? God I suppose. But the key here is that I didn’t get in the way and oppose it. I was a participant and sometimes leader in getting our friends together. And I bring this up because I’ve seen guys push community events away for ego, disposition, or trivial reasons. Building community is a big part of your job. This is where you want to go, trust me. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Discuss in your Ironmen group how you and your mates can get together and have some fun.
To your continued success.