Finding Community

June 10, 2006

Community HandsI had an epiphany this morning.

Actually I had about three, and I can only remember one, but that isn't unusual.

I was telling someone the other day about the difference between my life here in California and what I hope my life to be in Texas.  I said that my life here was good– really good.  I have a wonderful church community, my kids have great communities that we are a part of in both of their schools, we have a great neighborhood community, and I have some great friends.  All in all a good community.

I also said that because I'm a single parent, my time is limited.  I don't have family here.  I don't have a lot of help.  It keeps me from being involved as much as I would like to be in a lot of those communities.  I said that if I only had a little more support here this would be a really great place for us.  Right now it is a really good place for us, but not a really great place for us.

What I have tried to do over the past few years is to become involved in those communities primarily by serving.  I have tried to volunteer my time, to offer help, to be around when people needed help, and to offer assistance when anyone asked.  I had always thought that service is the most important part of community-building.

So what was my epiphany this morning?

Well, let me tell another story first.  On my recent trip to Austin.  I left on a Friday morning, immediately after dropping the kids off at school.  I arranged for their other dad, my former partner, to pick them up in the afternoon when school was out.  He does live in Southern California, but for those of you not in Southern California, that's a little bit like saying "we both live in the state of Vermont."  It doesn't imply that we are geographically close- he is about 60 miles away.

Anyway – he agreed to pick them up Friday afternoon, keep them for the weekend, and drop them off Monday morning at school.  I didn't come back from Austin until almost 8 at night– too late to pick them up at school.  I ended up asking some mothers from each of the kids schools if they could take them home from school, feed them dinner, and keep them until I got back.  I was nervous about it, because flights inevitably get delayed, lots of kids go to bed at around 8 or 8:30 (so I would be interfering with their normal bedtime routine), and just in general causing disruption of some sort in their lives.

So, back to the epiphany…

My epiphany this morning was that community-building is not limited to serving.  Community-building also comes from asking for help.  I think my therapist tried to tell me this several years ago, but apparently I wasn't ready to hear the message.  It was in the connection of asking the other families if they could help me, the connection of our children playing together that night, the connection I made with them when I picked the kids up, the connection of me saying "Thank you"– that was where we added to our communal experience.  It was in adding to our common experience that we are all there for each other, that I would do the same for them, that they were there for me, that we are a community and that is what communities do- that added to the strengthened community.

When I was in Austin, the class of seminarians before me said that they were putting together a "moving team" to help each incoming seminarian get moved in, so would I please let them know about my move-in date so they could help.  I had decided previously that I wasn't going to because I didn't want them to be inconvienced.  Now I'm thinking that it's not about that.  It is about forming the relationships.  It is not about the work that they do or don't do.  It is about the shared experience of the common burden of work to be done as one Body.  It is about distributing the joy and the pain, the highs and the lows, so that the lows never get too hard for any one part of the body to bear.

If you try to lift a heavy load using just your arm, you will fail.  You need the whole body, using all of its strength, to lift a heavy load.  So it is with the Body of Christ.  As Members of that Body, we cannot try and lift the heavy loads ourselves, or we risk breaking the very parts which are necessary for lifting the heavy loads which are needed when the other parts of the Body call upon us.

And the great thing about it is that the experience is all the richer for it, too.

Now, if I could only remember my other 2 epiphanies…

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