Surprised by Community


Perspective Shift

Life-altering events have a way of producing a shift in perspective.  I'm sure you have heard stories of this happening or experienced this yourself.  For me, the shift is still happening.  I've noticed themes emerging as more distance builds between me and my trauma.  Themes like Community and Simplicity.

I find myself drawn to books and podcasts about Simplicity.  Silence.  Slowing down.   I'm devouring the books, but the book pile isn't getting smaller.  I finish one book and replace it with two more.  There's so much to think about and learn.

I'm not finding quite as many books about Community.  (Embodied Hope is an excellent exception.)  To be honest, the lack of books is upsetting me.  Why don't we talk about Community as much as suffering?  Why don't we analyze why Community matters and how it affects us during a crisis?  Why don't we learn how to engage in Community as a healthy member?  As a hurting member?  Why hasn't someone done a study and picked all this apart with data and stories to back it up?I don't know why.

So, how about if I start writing about it right here?  Would you join me and chime in with your stories about Community?  Why not start the conversation right now?

Community is a Gift

Here's what I know.  After my surgery, I was shocked, SHOCKED, by how awesome my Community is.  I think I have pretty awesome friends, but the huge variety of people who pitched in to help just amazed me.  Some were friends of friends who we've met occasionally at parties.  Some were praying on the other side of the country simply because one of my friends asked.  People, this is HUMBLING.  And confusing.I'm the girl who grew up with no friends.  Not one. single. friend.  I was blessed with my first friend in 7th grade.  I held onto that ONE friend for years until slowly, God gifted me with a few deep, beautiful, life-long friendships and I treasure each one.  How did THAT girl end up with an army at her side when life took a nose-dive into scary depths of fear and uncertainty?   I don't have that answer.  Chris says it is a gift.  Pure and simple.  God looked at me and decided to gift me with beautiful friendships.  That's a great answer.  Good enough for me.

But I want everyone to have my kind of community.  How?  Since I don't think it was anything that I DID, per se, that caused my community to grow, I have decided to investigate.

Community Defined


The first thing I noticed is that my community is hard to define.  It has many off-shoots, little fingers of relationships growing outward like the suckers on my crepe myrtles.  I cannot contain my community to one group of friends from one place or time.

When someone asks me how I know so-and-so, I often cannot answer in a tidy little statement.  That's because most of my friends live in more than one of my different Community circles.  I might have met her in Bible study, but now our kids go to the same school and my son is her son's swim coach.  That's three communities.  See?

My communities overlap.  Often.  And that's a good thing.  I don't think I've ever had the thought, "I've got enough friends in this group.  I'm done."  Usually, I have the thought, "She's interesting.  I'd like to know her better."  Or, "She reminds me of so-and-so who I love.  I wonder if they'd like to meet?  They'd probably like each other as much as I like each of them."

Here's an example.  When my son's swim team hired a new coach, I briefly met his wife at a swim event.  She was interesting but our paths never crossed.  Ever.  A year went by, and one day I saw her at gymnastics class.  Her daughter and my daughter moved into the same class.  Now I saw Kristin weekly.  Of course, because she's an adorably sweet person, we quickly became friends. Soon, our daughters wanted playdates.  Next thing I know, they are birthday party buddies, swim buddies, and all around friends by way of their moms' friendship.  Kristin also "happens" to work at the school my boys went to last year.... 45 minutes away.  So, once a week, she drove them to school.  When I was in the hospital and recovering at home, Kristin brought us meals twice.  She took my daughter for playdates several times.  So, within just 2 years, she was in my "Swim Parent" circle, my "Mommy Friend" circle, and my "School People" circle.  I'm just waiting to see which circle she'll enter next!  :)

Community isn't one group in one place.  Our communities exist in many overlapping circles, like a psychedelic Venn diagram.  And that's a good thing because as we interact within our circles, our friends meet our other friends.  New connections are made.  New circles are created.  We leave imprints on each other and build each other up.

Community Benefits

But that's not the only benefit.  When the HARD comes, the weight of carrying our friends through a trial is dispersed among many.  Where one friend can clean a home, another can sit in a hospital room.  Where one friend can plan meals, another can bring a meal.  Where one friend can write a check and ease a financial burden, another can swing a hammer and check a job off the list.  We cannot be all that our friends need all the time.  But we can each be a little of what they need.  Together we can do so much!Like the story in Mark 2....

"And they came, bringing to [Jesus] a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

It took four friends to get that man to Jesus.  Four.  One person alone could not get the job done.  And I'm guessing (pure speculation) that maybe there were more than four.  Four men could certainly carry a man on a mat, one for each corner.  But I think it might have taken more to get the man up on the roof. (Who brought the ladder?) And to dig a hole in the roof. (Who carried the hand-tools?) They couldn't let the paralytic fall while digging.  (Who held the man?)  Then they had to lower the man down.  (Who brought the rope?)  And don't forget the friend who ran to say Jesus was in town in the first place.  Did that friend also carry the mat?  If not, then his entire job was just to run and speak.

Do you get it?  Community is so much bigger than just one group.  Or just one friend.  It's layers of groups and layers of friends.  Everyone has a place.   Everyone is valued.

So, for now, two questions:

  1. How do you define your community? If possible, can you see/count how many community circles you live in?

  2. What role(s) do you play in your community? Think of times when you've been a giver. And think of times when you've been a receiver.

If you are feeling disconnected from your community, taking time to stop and intentionally think about your community may lead you to new perspectives.  Perhaps it will give you new insight into the needs in your community.  It may lead you to engage in new ways.  To take a risk.  Who knows?