Community as Antidote to Grief

Posted March 14th, 2011 by Albert DeCiccio Ph.D., Provost, Southern Vermont College


This weekend, I was reading the young adult novel Seedfolks, by Paul Fleischman.  I was doing so because it had been a Vermont Reads book and because my wife, Ann, was teaching it to her ninth graders.  It is about how an urban lot is transformed into a community garden to which all in the low-income, multicultural apartment bring their contributions.  Serendipitously, on Saturday, Ann received her March issue (54.6) of the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literature (JAAL). One article in it, "The Unifying Power of a Whole-School Read,"  was about the way a whole school, Hand Middle School in the southeastern US, read Seedfolks and then discussed, among other topics, how we need to be "intentional about critical dialogue and have expectations for exploring sociocultural issues," among many other issues involved in community building (419). 


Given the extraordinary events of this past year–from the Clementi tragedy to the Arizona tragedies to the ongoing tragedies in Japan–the message of the community garden, the abundance to be shared as a result, provides a hopeful way to think about the future.


Still, if you all have heavy hearts as a result of the Japan incidents of the past weekend, as I do, I offer you some solace in Emily Dickinson’s “I measure every Grief I meet”:
I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes – 
I wonder if It weighs like Mine – 
Or has an Easier size.
I wonder if They bore it long – 
Or did it just begin – 
I could not tell the Date of Mine – 
It feels so old a pain – 
I wonder if it hurts to live – 
And if They have to try – 
And whether – could They choose between – 
It would not be – to die – 
I note that Some – gone patient long – 
At length, renew their smile –  
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil – 
I wonder if when Years have piled –  
Some Thousands – on the Harm –  
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –  
Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve – 
Enlightened to a larger Pain –  
In Contrast with the Love –  
The Grieved – are many – I am told –  
There is the various Cause –  
Death – is but one – and comes but once –  
And only nails the eyes –  
There's Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –  
A sort they call "Despair" –  
There's Banishment from native Eyes – 
In sight of Native Air –  
And though I may not guess the kind –  
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary –  
To note the fashions – of the Cross –  
And how they're mostly worn –  
Still fascinated to presume

That Some – are like my own – 

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