Four years ago, I started my freshman year at an idyllic coastal university in Santa Barbara, California. The months quickly zoomed by and, before I knew it, it was May.
Friday, May 23rd started like any other day: class, gym, lunch at the dining commons, and an afternoon nap (Isn't college great?!). Realizing that our dorm days were running short, my friends and I made the most of the lovely California evening—a walk to the beach to watch the sunset and a slice of pizza from our favorite spot.
We returned to our dorm rooms and sat on the floor wondering—should we go back out, stay in and watch a movie, maybe just hit the hay early? Then the text messages started coming: “Stay inside,” “Active shooter,” “Two people shot,” “Three,” “Four”... I was confused and, quite frankly, thought that the entire thing was an exaggeration, a rumor gone wrong. That, unfortunately, was not the case. May 23, 2014, marked the day six University of California students lost their lives. But I’m not writing this to detail the horrors of being in Santa Barbara that evening. I’m here to tell you what came next.
Mourning. Support. Community.
When you’re attending a giant research university, it’s easy to feel like the tiniest fish in the biggest of ponds. There’s no way you will ever know everybody, nor do you need to. That is until something terrible happens. All of a sudden, the people you don’t know feel close: they’re there for support, to flash you a smile, or to offer the hug you need when a wave of emotions sneak up on you. After May 23rd, the small college town I thought I knew became something different, something stronger. Candlelight vigils brought life to faces I’d never seen before, a memorial service attended by 22,000 helped us all feel supported, and coming together around music and art helped us unite and rebuild.
The people you don’t know feel close: they’re there for support, to flash you a smile, or to offer the hug you need when a wave of emotions sneak up on you.
When I think of the word “community” these images ring most true. But community looks different to everyone, and that’s the beauty of it. This week on the Relate podcast, you’ll visit communities that, like mine, provide the support necessary to help others through life’s challenges.
Blue Star Families is one of those communities. After moving nine times in 15 years for her husband’s career in the Marine Corps, Kathy Roth-Douquet realized that many military families need extra support from their communities. So she started Blue Star Families, a group that helps connect military families with friends and neighbors in new towns to help alleviate the isolation and upheaval of military deployments. On Relate, you’ll hear from several communities, including Kathy and the people Blue Star Families has connected along the way...
The Relate podcast: a show about how we connect, work together, and understand one another. Basically, we'll explore every type of relationship except romance—that’s on you.
Sara Lighthall is a content marketer at Zendesk and a student of life. When she’s not demystifying the Millennial generation on Relate, you can find her with her toes in the sand and a latte in her hand. See what she’s up to on Twitter: @saralighthall.