Friday, May 13, 2011

But, Where Will We Find Community?

Volunteering within my sons’ classrooms and supporting their academic extracurricular activities helped define me throughout their K-12 years in the Edina Public School system. While they were in the Continuous Progress program at Highlands, I enjoyed being a guest reader of chapter books. Middle school found me coaching Knowledge Masters and Academic Triathlon. And during their high school years I chaperoned EHS Orchestra trips and immersed myself in my role as Communications Mentor for the Edina Robotics team during its formative years. My volunteer-mom world and my sons’ world revolved around the schools. But when each of them graduated from EHS (2005, 2007) and headed for distant universities, I lost much more than their companionship–I lost my sense of integration into the community. Where do those of us without children living at home experience community in Edina?

I’ve recaptured that sense of belonging through the Edina Center for Adult Education, a program of the Edina Public Schools for adult learners. Now, every morning finds me exercising, alongside both empty-nesters and moms with kids at home, in fitness classes at the Edina Community Center (ECC). Three mornings a week, I hustle, grapevine, and bob-and-weave my way through aerobics. On the other two days, a small group of friends and I challenge ourselves on resistance equipment in the ECC Weight Room. And each semester I add a different course to learn new fitness skills, like yoga, Pilates, or salsa dancing. 

My fitness classes start my day off with a smile and the knowledge that I am building balance, strength, flexibility and endurance. But in addition to collectively battling against middle-aged spread and age-related deterioration, my fellow classmates and I have the opportunity to share the joys and challenges of our lives with each other. 

The Edina Community Center’s third-floor hallways are abuzz before and after each class with news of our children (those at home and those now living in their own homes), travel (experienced or planned), new grandchildren, recommended books, must-see movies and plays, health issues, and plans for our day. We show our caring and connectedness by listening and sharing. We send cards with well-wishes to classmates who have experienced an injury, had an operation, or lost a spouse. In one of my classes, we maintain our own email list of fellow exercisers, and celebrate each birthday with treats. My exercising colleagues and I have created a real sense of community ‑ at school again. When I’ve completed my fitness routine for the day, I’ve had sufficient social contact to carry me through my mostly-solitary day as a freelance writer.

The next time the course catalog comes to your mailbox (it goes to every household in Edina), take a good look at the full range of course offerings available through the Edina Center for Adult Education. Or, check it out online herePerhaps it’s where you’ll experience community, too.

(Contented Empty Nester)

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