There was a Senior Chief training me in some procedural stuff today. (He was great at this, and I've got plenty more entries in store about what it means to say that noncoms are the 'backbone' of the American military -- but I'll save it for later).
During the course of the training, he mentioned that he is what Mark Penn (Microtrends) would call an "Extreme Commuter." The man travels every day back-and-forth between New Milford, CT and Groton, CT. That's roughly 1.75 to 2 hrs each way, give or take.
Of course, I asked him why.
"I did a two-year unaccompanied tour, away from my family, and it sucked. New Milford is a great spot -- a scenic town. If you saw it, you'd know why I love it. It's where my wife wants to stay after I retire and where we'll raise our kids. Also, it's very pro-military."
I asked him about the time he spends in the car every day.
"I wake up every day at 4 to get ready to leave the house by 5. I'm there by 7. Then on the back end, I try to get out by 16 or 17 at the latest. I'm home to spend time with the family before I crash by 9 p.m. to do the whole thing over again. I realize the costs -- the miles, the gas, the wear and tear, etc. but it's worth it because of what I value -- my family."
I said nothing, but I thought to myself:
"Well, I'll see those two years unaccompanied and raise you three more. But I could pretty much plug in 'Lowell' and what he's saying would work for me as well. Senior Chief helped me put it in perspective with the emphasis on value. I value the search for 'community' more than anything right now."
Tonight was a great time. Even though I showed up late due to a flat tire outside Worcester, I made it to the Downtown Assocation meeting in time to meet some folks who live in and around my building. I got to hear their thoughts about things like the Hamilton Canal District, the recycling program in the city, and the clean-up effort this month. I got to meet Kathleen, who is a major community builder and also a big fan of this blog. I got to meet the guy who lives next door to me but isn't there right now due to renovations after a major flood last year. I got invited to an art show opening at the Revolving Museum on Shattuck. Then, I made it to the Blue Shamrock for (several) beers and the Celtics.
Coming to Lowell from southeastern Connecticut means roughly two hours in the car, each way. I'm using the time well (remember the whole audiobook thing), though of course there's still a cost attached. It's a cost that could probably be very neatly broken down and quantified in a dollars-and-cents sort of way.
But there's also a value attached.
And although the value of belonging to a community can't be quantified, I can assure you that it greatly outweighs the cost of a few tire rotations and oil changes.