Time Machine Community

Time machines do exist, but not in the form of DeLoreans or phone booths, rather, they exist in the forms of how a community used to be, how it should be.

I do not need to speak of our culture of social media, distancing and isolation for you to know that we have strayed a long way from how people use to gather. We’ve accepted some things as normal, wishing our loved ones a happy birthday through our phones instead of over tables and cake. We’re used to waiting for the baby announcement photo, the relationship status to change and the ‘live-feed’ tour of the new house to catch the life updates of friends. We are so used to it that the way things ‘ought’ to be are almost forgotten.

My husband and I were camping recently. We prefer to camp on backroads, out in the bush where animal encounters outnumber human encounters. The closest town to our camping spot just so happens to contain a couple friends of ours, friends of which who were hosting a spiritual gathering for the local community. We decided to take a day trip to check it out. We loaded our four-day-showerless-camping-selves into the truck and drove down. We talked the whole way about how it wouldn’t take much convincing for us to consider moving to this part of the region.

Driving past large acreages of farms, small gatherings of houses and a pit stop town containing the lonely gas station, I felt like we were slowly traveling back in time. The gas station had a candy selection I had not seen since my childhood, as well as fresh brewed coffee and a local standing over the coffee station, cup in hand, surveying whatever it was that needed surveying. I purchased a couple of sugar sticks for the sole purpose of reminiscing about my childhood. Rhett filled the truck tires, as well as his coffee cup, and we were on our way again.

Entering the town of our friend’s event we were a bit lost on exactly where we needed to go. We knew they were at the wildlife hall, but alas, it did not come up on Google Maps. We were forced to ask for directions. The first place we asked for directions didn’t know what we were talking about, and the two other guys in the store weren’t from the area. I called a local store and asked them. The woman on the other side seemed all too delighted to share her small town directions. Off we went again.

Crossing a small bridge and the dormant fall-fair fairgrounds, we wound our way up a small dirt road and through a gun range. There it is, the wildlife hall, our destination. The building looked smaller than what we perceived we were going to arrive at, though I can’t imagine why considering what we just drove through, causing us a bit of hesitation with barging through the door. Our hesitation upon opening the door was quickly dissolved when the overwhelming sense of being home filled my heart.

In front of us sat a small crowd. Our friend waves at us from the pulpit and signals us to find a seat. We are seated for two minutes before he tells the crowd who we are and welcomes us. I slowly take in the room, the friendly faces, the overhead projector – haven’t seen one of them in years, the small kitchen to the back – complete with a token grandma tending to the orange coffee pot and water, the snack table at the back – filled with homemade cookies, coffee cake squares and a birthday cake that has been cut into and half served. It’s all too perfect. It feels like attending church in my childhood. The smell of the old building and the numerous taxidermied animals (being the wildlife hall and gun range building) on the walls solidify that time machines do exist, and we had just traveled through one when opening that door.

The building, baked goods, token grandma, and coffee pot aside, the feeling of community we experienced in the short two hours we spent amongst these people has been unmatched over the last two years. Pandemic aside, these people were friendly, kind, inquisitive and cheery, making sure to offer us the last of their cookies before they sealed up their tupperware containers. Hearing that we were hunting in the area we were quickly offered tips on where to go for good game. The stress of the outside world and its worries seemed far from this place. It was obvious that the stress is shared through community, not something to be borne alone.

How have we lost so much? How is it that what we have lost are the simplest things of all? The value of gathering together has been stolen from us, but we have also allowed it to be stolen for a number of years now. We cannot simply blame the pandemic for our isolated lives. The two hours we spent at this event I did not see one phone out, no one scrolling their timelines or looking for the latest TikTok. They were looking around for the next person to chat with.

The cherry on top of it all was when Rhett let Bentley loose from the truck and he came bolting inside! He was instantly the hit of the room as everyone vied to pet his head and ask his name. Bentley ran around the room sniffing everyone’s ankles and bags and no-one seemed to mind.

Eras are lost because we allow them to be lost. Traditions are forgotten because we stop celebrating them. The life you want, the community you want, that Christmas tradition you want, it’s all waiting for you to remember it still exists, you just have to create it or go find it. I don’t need the convenience of Amazon Prime, the ease of a city life or the arms length friendships through social media. I need the community that understands you bring a tupperware full of baked goods to a gathering, that coffee should pour from a percolator that’s older than I am, a community that leaves its phones at home – cause there’s no cell service anyway, and people that invite each other out for dinner to extend the conversation.

I don’t need a time machine, this community already exists.


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