The importance of community, alongside actually experiencing it, only came into my life once I moved to North Carolina. This was a symptom of my own behavior as much as it was the area I lived in. Living in Philadelphia and going to college there, I’m sure I could have found a community and stuck with it. Some of my friends were in fraternities or apart of theater so they had their ‘tribe’. And still others were apart of a sports team.
Without a previous example, I didn’t even understand what I was missing out on in my college years until I experienced community myself. Moving to North Carolina, not only was I blessed with an amazing friend; but I also became apart of a few communities. These included a volunteer group, my own neighborhood and we can’t forget working for a huge company.
These communities and the people within them provided a strong sense of belonging, accountability, amazing examples of good leaders and fellowship! After some time, I learned to lean into these communities. To observe the amazing leaders, and to rely on my peers for support. In short, these communities taught me the importance of trust and vulnerability.
Depending on where you are in the world, or the season of life you are going through, perhaps you find yourself surrounded by a strong community or perhaps, instead you find yourself alone. First I will urge you to seek out your ‘people’. This does not mean joining a rec league for a sport you don’t have an interest in; but it does mean finding a group of people you can spend time with and grow with. Maybe it is a running club, a local barn, or a social dance studio. If something less active is more your type, perhaps a book club, dining group or sewing club.
Try a few different clubs, and try to meet new people. Once you’ve established a connection – see how it feels to be in fellowship with them. Most likely there will be one or two people from the group you feel especially connected to. Give yourself as much time as needed to get to know your new group, and be purposeful to allow them to get to know you.
Practice showing up as your best self, and enjoy being apart of something. Even if the particular book you are reading isn’t great or something doesn’t go your way, show up and at least enjoy the other people. If you were like me and trust and vulnerability do not come easily – please practice. Over the course of time, you will grow in discernment and be able to determine who to trust, and what to trust them with. Likewise, your trust in yourself will grow. And the community you’ve become apart of will become more and more meaningful.
Eventually you will be celebrating together, weeping over painful life moments together, and doing life together.
This post was written with hope that the pandemic will have come more so to a close by the time it is published. Realizing that re-building a community after we’ve been needing to isolate for so long may be more difficult for some than others. I wanted to quickly provide some additional encouragement. Building fellowship capability, including allowing yourself to extend trust. As well as opening up to others can be difficult. The more you practice, the easier it goes, and the better you get to know yourself. Please do not settle for a life of isolation with the excuse of the pandemic.
May this be the sign you need to get out there in your community. Or reconnect with an old friend you particularly miss.