As I’ve aged and started a family, I’ve noticed how much I need and crave community.
In the past, I’ve noticed the relationship my parents have with their friends. Its one of deep, abiding trust and almost a type of dependance. They rely on each other without asking and celebrate the other’s joys. It isn’t between my just my mom and her best friend, or my dad and his childhood pal, but among the group as a whole.
I’ve certainly had friends with whom I’ve celebrated joys and sorrows, but I’ve noticed that this is often on more of a one-on-one level than as a community. But once I was married and had a child, I felt a need for a group in the same boat. A group working on marriages and parenthood, working on being gracious hosts, working to celebrate the little things, and a key for me, working to become holy while acknowledging their sins
Living in Lafayette, IN, I got a true sense of “community” and leaving that community has made me contemplate what community means even more. Community has been described as a type of fellowship. Some philosophers saying:
Fellowship is heaven, and lack of fellowship is hell; fellowship is life, and lack of fellowship is death; and the deeds that ye do upon the earth, it is for fellowship’s sake ye do them. (A Dream of John Ball, Ch. 4; first published inThe Commonweal 1886/7)
But, I find the definition incomplete. I have fellowship with individual friends, but when the fellowship is on a group level, we begin to have a sense of community. When people experience similarities in ideals and purpose, thus allowing similar people to feel included in a deeper level.
In a podcast I was recently listening to (I wish I could remember which one, but now I can’t find it), the host explained that we can be truly vulnerable within our community. We can be our truest selves with the knowledge that others in the group, too, share these common ideals. Thus, we can express ourselves, have deep communication, and celebrate each other with the knowledge that we are working toward the same goals.
Those goals may be becoming saints, or raising good children, or living a simple life. But either way, the goal is common to the group in some way, even if lived out in different ways.
Community was more common when we lived amongst our peers, raised our children together, knew our neighbors, and worked together to sustain our small villages. But, as we venture to bigger cities, hide in our homes, fail to greet the people walking down the street, we’ve somehow made it a little more difficult to nourish these relationships.
However, we can now find a community from behind our screens and use phones and emails to continue being involved in a community once you’re no longer physically present in it.
The key, though, is to find community, to realize when you have a community, to work toward nurturing it, and to cherish every second of it.
What does community mean to you?