PRINCETON: Getting connected to a welcoming community

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Steve Drake, Princeton
In what can feel like a wildly fast-paced mobile and globalized world there is a strong need to find stable communities in our lives which ground and orient us.
As a recent immigrant from the Show-Me state, I arrived in Princeton eagerly anticipating my work at a local religious ministry. Yet I wondered whether I would fit in to this storied, Ivy League community to which I initially felt no connection.
Author Charles Vogl in his book “The Art of Community” helped me think more expansively about community as “a group of individuals who share a mutual concern for one another’s welfare.” I’ve been delighted to discover that Princeton strives to bring people together and is a community determined to break down the walls that would try to divide us.
Who we are as a community is seen in the many volunteer and civic initiatives that help foster a genuine connection with one another. I found people who care deeply about justice and love for their fellow human beings at monthly meetings of Not in Our Town Princeton (niotprinceton.org), an interracial, interfaith group whose monthly meetings help build bridges of understanding. In the meetings I’ve attended, there have been thought-provoking discussions that have helped me to move out of my comfort zone, which is where growth happens.
Out of a desire to connect with the larger Princeton community, I convinced my crowd-adverse, Brazilian wife to join the joyous throng in celebrating Communiversity Day this past April. Never before have I lived in a community with an Arts Council that collaborates with the town and a major university to pull off a multi-cultural event that attracted over 40,000 people.
Princeton is about to celebrate and welcome immigrants, refugees and other new Americans this month. It’s prompted me to dig deeper and think about qualities that might define the perfect community for one and all. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far: fulfillment, health, justice, intelligence, abundance and the brotherhood of man.
The ideal community is also one where people feel unified and validated so that any group’s talents, skills and abilities can flourish. Here’s an uplifting thought in support of a perfect community written by Mary Baker Eddy, a 19th century theologian, “Pure humanity, friendship, home, the interchange of love bring to earth a foretaste of heaven.”
Is there such a thing as a perfect community? Perhaps not — every community has its challenges — but I have no doubt that Princeton is the perfect community for me. 
Steve Drake 
Security and Safety Manager 
Tenacre Foundation 