A Romanian proverb says that whoever does not have an old person in their life should get one. By extension, we could say the same thing about the community: Those who don’t have a community should do something to find one.
Why are we talking about community? Why is it important to give our time and energy to write, to read, to care about what a community means, to want to be part of a community?. Well, here everyone could have their own answer. What would be mine? I would say, above all, that it is one of those sometimes painful and very difficult things, but so necessary and beneficial. It is kind of like a medicine or even a surgical intervention. If I were to name the most difficult thing on earth for me, I would say, without thinking too much: relationships between people.
If I had to name the most beautiful and wonderful thing, I would name the same thing: the relationships between people. What makes us live in this paradox? Why do we need community relationships and why can they be so difficult at times? Maybe because it addresses the deepest need and part of us, that of belonging, of being part of something bigger than ourselves, the need to be loved as just we are, to share our everyday life experiences and deepest thoughts with others.
The community is not or should not be a bubble or an echo chamber.
Hearing my own opinions or certainties confirmed would not help me much to see things from different perspectives or to make changes.
It would just be a warm place that would keep me in an undisturbed status quo. The community is not a universal panacea or a miracle solution for my shortcomings and vulnerabilities. Instead, I should be aware that often times entering a community means entering into a painful process of transformation which leads to growth and healing. This means learning to accept to choose differently. And this is a process that can last our whole life.
But what a great blessing it is to be able to see because the other shows us what we didn’t even suspect until now: that we have wounds and need to start healing, that we have needs which we are not always aware of, that our choices can become our obstacles, that we can learn new ways to grow, live, work, love.
The opportunities for growth that a community offers cannot be experienced in any other way or in any other place.
I would say that the community is the best training ground where we can grow in compassion, generosity, and forgiveness. And these do not come naturally, but they need to be practiced intentionally, and consistently if we want them to be part of our lives. The beauty of the community is also given by the diversity and incredible richness of the experiences, personalities, voices, and opinions of our friends.
There is something else that I think is worth considering, namely that each of us, among those who are part of a community, becomes its creator. In a way, our communities are what we make them to be: burdened with cruel pain, endless conflict, fighting or bringing serenity, hope, and joy. The road together can pass through shady valleys, storms, but also through refreshing sunshine.
C.S. Lewis says that love is not a feeling, but an action verb: treat the other as if you already love him. Christ himself tells us the same. And who am I to contradict Him? When I need to know how to live in community, I can look to the Holy Trinity, our ultimate example of a relational community where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live in perfect harmony. When I need to feel life in the community, I spend time with my brothers and sisters.
There is space in community for tears and hugs, pain and burdens being carried together, or hope and shared stories, for returns and new beginnings.
This is the place to experience love, light, stepping forward in faith, and to know the meaning of “belonging”.