No man is an island: the importance of community

By Greta Sowles

I remember the first time I walked into the Waconia Patriot office as an employee.
I was wearing grey dress pants. I was clutching a tote that contained a surplus of pens and pencils and probably a notebook. I was nervous. But most of all, I had this preconceived notion that community journalism was NOT the field for me. Quite honestly, I had made plans to just get my toes wet and add something to my resume.
Perhaps community journalism is still not my end goal, but my experience this summer has taught me something I will not forget: community is essential.
English poet John Donne dictates the importance of community in his poem “No Man is an Island.” Here are the first four lines:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
Why is it that community is so important to us? One way that I think this plays out is in our innate human desire to belong.
As my summer progressed, I realized a strange physical sign of belonging — my emails. I began my summer by writing emails explaining that I was a summer intern at the Waconia Patriot, and that I had been assigned by my editor to write a story. By the end of the summer I was Greta Sowles from the Waconia Patriot. Soon, I had my own Patriot email address, my own desk and my own phone. I was part of the team, I represented the company as a whole, and I belonged.
If we, as Donne so eloquently put, are just a part of the main, how can we feel belonging? As a girl who grew up in the Waconia community, I cannot help but feel indebted to the power of a close-knit community. Through the joy of a state football victory to the pain of an unexpected death, you have upheld one another like the foundations of a coastal house weathering both the beautiful calm of the sea and its ravenous waves during the winds of a storm.
In just the small sampling of people whose story I have heard, I experienced the joy of a new birth or the crowning of a princess and the disappointment of alleged injustice. And truthfully, I will miss being “in the know.” I missed it even when I was gone for 10 days in Brazil in August. When I returned to Waconia, I felt the loss of not knowing. What community events were going on? What happened in the last city council meeting?
When I go back to school, I experience a different kind of community at a university, but that does not mean that I will forget the Waconia community.
I am thankful for the beauty of community that Waconia illustrates. While it often falls short, it has given us the opportunity to belong. We are just pieces of the community that is the whole.

Greta Sowles, who will be a junior at Bethel University this fall, participated in the ECM internship program this summer.