I am really terrible at throwing things away. Are you the same way?
I’ve been trying to entirely re-organize my office, and eliminate the majority of the clutter that has been haunting me for years. This task has proven to be fairly difficult and time-consuming. However, it eventually brought me to a large collection of letters, cards and photographs that I have collected through my entire life. If any of you has ever written me a physical card or letter, chances are I’ve still got it.
Is that creepy?
You may ask: What does that have to do with community, children or nature?
It’s a bit of a stretch, but I’m getting there.
You see, I’ve discovered that I have a rather detailed historical record of all my childhood communities. All of the people who were important to me at one point in my life: family, friends, teachers, co-workers, they’re all right there. I have birthday cards adorned with stickers and childish handwriting, letters from the tooth fairy and secret notes alluding to mysteriously code-named “crushes.” I have letters from children I cared for as a camp counsellor, a collection of diaries picked up and put away over the years, and more than anything else, I have an abundance of overly dramatic letters full of teenage angst. However, the collection dramatically drops off after high school, when the internet really took over.
Reading through all of these took me right back to all the places I’ve lived and people I’ve known. While I did this, I felt grateful for the many friends I’ve had along the way, and sad to have lost connections with many of them. It makes me wonder. In this digital age of texting, e-mail, and e-cards, will our children never have these kinds of records of their past communities? What exactly are they losing? Are these details even important?
I don’t have an answer.
To be realistic, most of the people I encountered on this trip through the past, I now have on Facebook anyway. Even if we don’t see each other anymore, I’ve seen a picture of what they’re having for dinner, I know how they did on a recent marathon and whether or not their children are toilet trained. The question is: are these the same people as when they were children? I’m not.
We build different types of communities today. Digital communities have so quickly become an integral part of daily life for most young people. We worry that digital records are somehow “too” permanent sometimes. What goes on the internet, stays on the internet, right? Think of all the regretted alcohol-induced “selfies.” However, 20 years from now, how will we revisit the important events of our lives today?
We know that the communities we belong to shape us in dramatic ways. It is sometimes interesting or even helpful to take a look back and remember what those communities were, and figure out how they helped to turn us into the people we are today.
I’m glad I still have these things. Even in this round of organization, they didn’t find their way to the trash. They’re all filed away in a chest in a semi-organized state in this collection of boxes and folders. Were you a part of my history? Chances are, there’s something from you in here.
Do you keep things? What do your records look like?