Lately, I’ve been reflecting on my need for community. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that life is meant to be shared. We need other people. I don’t believe that walking through life alone leads to happiness, joy, or abundance. It’s certainly safer not to depend on others and to deny the need we all have for a sense of belonging. Life is simpler when we keep everyone at arm’s length, when no one really knows who we are deep down, and I am sure that’s one reason why it can be difficult to invite other people into our lives. Vulnerability and transparency are messy, and there’s no getting around that. None of us can perfectly predict someone else’s behavior, and sometimes that is frustrating. And I get that sharing our true selves is hard, I really do. I understand that it feels uncomfortable to begin to trust someone new, especially after we’ve been wounded.
If we desire to do more than simply exist, if we want to experience meaning and live with hope, we need other people. We need community, a tribe of people who share our good times and support us when life is hard. We need it because we all have moments when we feel small. We need it because when tragedy comes into out lives, we fall apart. We need it because sharing our victories is much sweeter than enjoying them alone. We need it because we are human and we were created to live in relationships with other people.
Community looks different for all of us. For most, community is a cobbled together group of people from different areas of our lives. It includes old friends, family members, fellow church-goers, co-workers, and neighbors. It’s made up of people who understand our values and encourage our passions. They sit with us in our pain, celebrate milestones with us, and forgive us when we fail them. Living life together is not always perfect, but the beauty of a shared life outweighs the frustrations.
You see, we were not created to trudge through life alone. As children, we needed people to take care of us, to nurture us and keep us safe. And while adulthood gives us the option to be entirely independent, I think we still need other people just as much as we did when we were young. We certainly have different needs in adulthood, but deep down we want to know that we are loved and that we part of something bigger than ourselves. We want to feel the sense of purpose and belonging that only come from sharing our lives with other people.
My community is made up of people from different areas of my life. They have differing political leanings, religious beliefs, and values, but they all have one thing in common: they care about and respect me. They show up when I need help and they let me do the same for them. They don’t all know one another, and that is fine. But they are my people, the ones that I go to when I need support or encouragement. Sometimes we get to chat for hours and sometimes we run around like chickens with our heads cut off, but we do it together. I get help cleaning out my gutters and I listen to stories about the crazy things they see at work. It’s not always 50/50, and that’s okay. Life is hard. There are times when one of us needs a lot of help. And so I make a casserole and show up just to chat for a few minutes, or babysit the kids so that Mom can get some time to herself. I am shown grace when I make mistakes and we choose forgiveness, over and over again.
My community isn’t perfect, but I like that because I’m not perfect either. Still, I recognize that I need other people to remind me that I matter. I need their phone calls, their emails, and their goofy Facebook comments. I need coffee dates and small reminders that they love the real me. And I know they need me too.