Learning Community Through CEF

By: Audrey Boyles

When I entered college, I was determined to become a travelling doctor. I thought I would never settle down, that I would have a nomadic life and that my friends from home would play, “Where in the world is Audrey now?” The idea was very romantic to me (just think of the souvenirs!).

Four years later, I find myself bawling my eyes out at the CEF Graduation ceremony, never wanting to leave the beautiful community of which I have become a member. During the past four years, I have learned what community means to me through CEF. Learning the meaning of community has unexpectedly shaped my post-grad decisions, the relationships I have with my family, friends, and neighbors and even the context of how I see myself.

When I look back over the past four years, some of the happiest memories that come to mind include HOPE Gardens potlucks, having bratwurst and talking about CEF’s future at Milltown, going to see “It’s a Wonderful Life” with CEF-ers at Christmastime and … of course, wobbling at most community events (what would a community event be without the Wobble?).  I come away from these events feeling hopeful and thinking, “now this is what it’s all about.”

A little over a month ago, I was in a car accident and sustained relatively serious injuries to my face and neck. This past month has been a bit of a strange and scary time for me, but there are many silver linings, including experiencing my community showing me a whole lotta love. This is not something I could have gotten through alone and I am extremely fortunate that I have not had the chance to try and take it on alone.

When I woke up in the Emergency Department, my bed was surrounded by my family and beautiful friends made at CEF (also considered family!). I have received countless visits, cards, phone calls, texts, and emails from members of the CEF community and beyond… old babysitters, neighbors, past school teachers, high school friends, parents of friends and friends of friends. It has truly been amazing to receive an outpouring of support from the people I have had the very good fortune of meeting over the past 21 years.

Writing does not come easy to me, so I will stray away from defining community or trying to articulate exactly what it means to me. But what I can say is that I don’t know where I would be without it (read: I don’t know where I would be without you all!). While I hope some traveling here and there is in my future, I don’t believe the nomadic lifestyle is for me (nor is medical school for me! I’m very proud to have graduated in nursing). A beloved community is what I’m here for.

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CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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