Saturday, November 22, 2008

Losing Long-term Members

This week, Michael and Käthe announced that they'll be giving up their membership and returning to their homestead in southern Missouri at the end of the 2009 growing season. We'll be sad to see them go. They've been members of Sandhill since Feb 2002, and it always hurts when you lose people who are fully integrated into the family.

Over the years, we've noticed that two years is an important watershed for new members. If someone makes it that long they've gone through two growing cycles and probably have a pretty good idea about what life here is like and how well they fit into it. They also have had plenty of time to figure out what the friendship potentials are (as well as who's particularly irritating).

[Another key to someone staying or going is whether they find a partner, or how they perceive their potential for finding one—if they're in the market (which, incidentally, tends to be almost independent of whether they currently have a partner). Years ago, a visitor who had spent some time in Israel reported that in the
kibbutzim it was said that the two main reasons people leave are because: 1) they've fallen in love (and were afraid that in the nutrient rich environment of community the new relationship might be tested beyond its resilience); or 2) because they didn't fall in love (and would leave in the hopes of improving their chances of finding their soul mate).]

In our 34 years, we've only lost a handful of members who have lived here more than two years (not counting my kids who "graduated" through normal metamorphosis): Becca, Clarissa, and Lindsay were here for three and change; and in the 5+ category we've only lost Grady, Jules, French, Annie, Bekka… and now Käthe & Michael. To put this in fuller perspective, we've had 79 members (67 adults) all together in our history (I'm only counting those who "officially joined" in some sense). Through today, half of the people who have lived at Sandhill for more than three years are still living here. We six (five adults and one child) are the embodiment and articulators of the community's culture and the center of the gyroscope.

It is both fortunate and unfortunate that our nucleus evolves. Change is at once heart-wrenching, inevitable, and life giving—sometimes all in the same day.

While we'll have 12 months before it happens, losing two people is a serious blow when you only have six adult members, and it will be interesting to see what effect this has on how we view recruitment and our 2009 intern program. It would be really good to manifest one or two new members next year.

I am reminded that the Chinese ideogram for danger and opportunity are the same. We have the choice to be fearful in the face of impending loss, and the chance to be exhilarated by the unfoldment ahead. While it's true that one of the values we embrace at Sandhill is voluntary simplicity, luckily, I've never gotten community living confused with the expectation of a simple, predictable life.

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

Very sad to hear that Kathe and Michael are heading back south.

I think you're referring to the ideogram for crisis, where danger and opportunity are supposedly juxtaposed.

That particular spin has been pretty vociferously denied by every reader of Chinese I've ever met, see:

http://www.pinyin.info/chinese/crisis.html