Community & Connections

“ What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Don’t you love that quote?
I’ve been thinking about loneliness lately. 
It’s been two years since I recovered from Covid after spending 39 days in isolation at Bethesda Hospital. 
For me, and for millions of others, Covid was a profound experience. The virus changed our world, altered our society and ended and upended the lives of so many people all over the world. 
But even though I was isolated in the hospital I was never alone. I had a community behind me. What a blessing that was. I believed it saved me. 
I’m reliving the power of community this week through the magic of Facebook memories. 
Throughout my hospitalization, I received a steady barrage of encouraging messages and prayers from the community. It was powerful and profound. I’ve been moved all over again just by scrolling through the memories. 
The power of community. What a beautiful thing to behold. 
I saw it again last week when I tuned in remotely to watch the funeral service of former City Commissioner Bob Costin. 
We are deeply saddened by the loss of Bob who was beloved by so many. 
But we are also reminded of the example he set. His was a life of service and dedication to family, friends, country and community. 
Bob loved the community he built here in Delray, at his lake house in Georgia and among fellow RVers and florists. 
Community enriched him, strengthened him and in turn he gave his communities so much. 
Pat Canning, who we lost last week, also understood the power of community and service as did her late husband Vince Canning, who was a legendary civic leader. 
Watching Bob’s funeral and reading tributes to Mrs. Canning, I was reminded of our better angels and better times.  
Across town, our City Commission was meeting and while I don’t watch those meetings I was sent a clip that bothered me. The clip showed a local philanthropist who gave $2 million to Old School Square standing before our elected representatives and wondering aloud why her donation was squandered (the project she funded was not completed when the commission voted 3-2 to terminate Old School Square’s lease after 32 years of service and community building). Margaret Blume, that generous philanthropist, is a wonderful person. If you watch the clip, you can’t help but notice the hurt and disbelief in her voice. She was never thanked. The theater and museum she loves both sit dark. The community she hoped to be benefit with her generosity , is not being served by vacant buildings. 
Friends, we need to tend to our community. We need to repair the parts of the fabric that have been torn. 
We need to honor the memories of our civic leaders who understood that service, love, respect, dialogue and kindness are building blocks that create great and happy places. 
We long to live in a community that wraps its arms around us. It’s a choice. We can do it.  But we need to be intentional about what we want to be. 
At that same commission meeting, a citizens group of which I am a part, led by former Fire Chief Kerry Koen told the commission about a plan to honor the late Alfred “Zack” Straghn, one of Delray’s civic heroes, with a plaque outlining his tireless efforts to make our community a better and more inclusive place. 
The idea seemed to be embraced. That’s a good thing. A start. 
We have so much work ahead of us. 
We may or may not be able to heal the divisions affecting our wonderful country. But I hope we will. 
We cannot bring back those lost to a brutal pandemic. But I pray we can heal those suffering from the lingering effects of long Covid and I hope we can comfort the families of those who lost loved ones. 
I also hope that we will spend some time thinking about those who serve our community as volunteers. 
Volunteers are precious commodities. 
They don’t volunteer for the glory or the credit, they give back because they love something. 
They deserve our thanks and our respect. 
That’s not controversial, that’s basic. 
To come full circle. Take another look at that Vonnegut quote. 
We live in a society of devices. We are buried in our phones, wrapped in headsets and ear buds. 
We work remotely. We date by scrolling through photos on an app. We get our news in silos that agree with our particular beliefs. 
These days we have our own set of facts and we fail to trust institutions we once banked on. 
It’s a recipe for loneliness. 
But the antidote  to loneliness is community. 
It’s a time to reconnect. It’s time to rebuild. It’s time to say thank you. 
It means everything. 
Two years ago, this community wrapped it arms around me and my family. It made all the difference and I’m forever grateful.
I’ve experienced the benefits and I’ve seen the downside when community erodes.
There’s no comparison. Community heals. 


  1. Matt Mueller says

    Jeff, your writing always inspires. George Erasmus, an Aboriginal leader from Canada, said, “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.” I think it is time for people with different histories to come together, to listen to each other , and to learn from one another. The result may just be a community so strong that nobody could have ever imagined!!!

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Thanks, Matt.
      I really love that quote you shared and believe in the potential you speak about.

  2. Robin deLisser says

    commUNITY, it’s what makes Delray Beach a very special place.Thank you for promoting unity & honoring those who’ve done so much for the commUNITY. The Old School Square issue is heartbreaking & needs a good solution immediately. Thank you, also, for recognizing volunteers specifically – they often go so unnoticed & yet get so much done. Glad you’re here to write this!

  3. Kurt Vonnegut Was an instructor for several years at the writer’s workshop at the University of Iowa starting in 1965

  4. Kerry Koen says

    One of my heroes, renowned urban planner, Daniel Burnham, contributed much to our quality of life by urging that design professionals and planners should “make no small plans”. In Delray, we felt we did our best work when we were doing something big (the Decade of Excellence Bond, rebuilding of Atlantic Avenue, the relocation of Atlantic High School, etc.). Community building is not easy, and the work of maintenance is ongoing. The overarching issue is – you’ve got to want it real bad. Now is a great time to renew these efforts. The highlighting of Bob Coston and Alfred Straghn today, reminds us that they were giants in the field of community building because they understood the “unity piece”.

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