What is Community?

On any given day at Caring House, you can find light streaming through the windows – of our offices, of our bedrooms, of our courtyard and gardens. Plants sit on the windowsill of our community kitchen. Shiny books sit on the shelves of our library. Soothing furniture lines our blue walls.

There is always a hum of noise throughout the house, either guests chatting, or staff clicking on keyboards, or our Facilities Supervisor, Oliver, vacuuming a room down the hall. Sometimes the hum is a peaceful, restful silence. You might smell bacon cooked by guests for breakfast in the morning, or cookies baked by volunteers in the afternoon. 

It is Spring and somehow, all the colors of the rainbow are blooming outside our doors. 

A community is often referred to as a group of people that have similar characteristics or something in common. You may think of neighborhoods, book clubs, or soccer teams, but a community is much more than that. 

It is not simply liking the same things or living in the same area. At Caring House, it is meals shared in the dining room with people that care about you, even if you’ve only known them for two days. It is the sound of hellos and how are yous, cheerfully given in the mornings on the way to treatment. It is the fireplace crackling and a book in your hands on an afternoon that stretches across the sky. It is sitting with a new friend on the red bench in our water garden, listening to the bubbles of koi fish in the pond. It is holiday decorations hung up on doors by guests and staff, glittery stickers and wrapping paper perched along door frames.  

Community is cookies of all kinds brought by volunteers – lemon and jam thumbprints, banana muffins and snickerdoodles. It is a dessert baked by guests and generously shared with others. Half-eaten pound cakes sitting on the counter of the community kitchen, leftover treats in the fridge. It is fresh linens on the beds provided by our friendly housekeeping team, tending to our guests with gentle, thoughtful care. It is smiles from local volunteer groups that bring with them all the ingredients to make a comforting dinner for guests. 

Community is people huddled around the table, creating collages in our art therapy group, and Caring House volunteers answering the ringing phone in our lobby. It is a translation app that guests use when other guests who don’t speak English walk our halls. It is the sounds of piano-playing in our great room and whispered prayers from local pastors. It is guests teaching each other how to knit, how to make beaded bracelets, and how to speak Albanian. It is offering rides to the grocery store for those without transportation, holding the doors open on a rainy day, giving a gift to someone who has left a lasting impact on you. It is card games played and laughter shared in our library. Conversations between staff and guests that imprint stories on your heart. 

We are a home that offers support and peace of mind to cancer patients who travel from far away for treatment at Duke. The word ‘cancer’ conjures up thoughts of pain and isolation, stress and survival. But what if it also conjures up community? 

Welcome to Caring House.

Written by: Kristen Luft, Communications Associate