I spent the majority of my time as a kid roaming the neighborhood with my friends. Playing kickball in the street. Chopping out forts through the blackberry brambles that covered empty lots. Riding bikes literally everywhere. We were a tight nit band of knuckle-headed warriors blazing our way through adolescence in the early 80s.
This was the system I grew up in. I was fashioned by it. Strengthened by it. And I fought tooth and nail to preserve it when I felt like it was in danger.
This was my community.
I don’t know if its true or not, but it certainly feels like things have changed almost 4 decades later.
Community has evolved. In some cases, it has completely eroded.
What is community?
Community is defined like this:
- A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
- A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.
It can be found in the church. It can be found in the workplace. Here in Iowa it’s even found at the corner gas station where farmers meet every morning for coffee.
We look high and far for a sense of belonging. We were created to be connected. We were designed for fellowship. And so if we can’t find a sense of community within our own little ecosystem, we turn to online groups on Facebook where we can share ideas and a small part of our lives with others who have common interest.
This is all good, I think. Longing for community is normal. It’s healthy. Being without community is a lonely experience that probably leads to long term physical, mental and emotional damage.
And it’s why I think we need to fight for community more than ever before.
Community is vulnerable.
I’m concerned that we are moving toward an absence of true community as a society.
Oh, I think that there are groups of people packing together in like-minded herds. This might a loose definition of community, but it isn’t healthy fellowship. Politics and ideological differences have polarized too many of us, forcing us into divided factions. But this, my friend isn’t true community.
Community heals. It supports. It builds up. It unites.
The fruit of division can be seen in how we treat each other at the grocery store and on the street. It’s even worse when you log in online.
It’s almost as if we are experiencing a surge in pseudo-community. A herd mentality that has the power to destroy each and every one of us.
And I being over dramatic?
I don’t think so.
The kind of community that heals is rooted in sharing our lives with each other.
This is the fellowship that we all long for.
When we openly share our lives with others, we cut through the superficial things that separate us and we no longer see each other through the labels society wants to characterize us by. We gain empathy for one another when we share our table, our food, our time.
By opening our lives to others, we improve our own lives.
Right now, there is a force that is compelling us to distance ourselves from each other. To stay hidden behind our masks. Don’t touch. Don’t talk. Don’t feel.
But we’re losing something in our souls through it all. It’s deeply affecting our human experience. We’re seeing depression, loneliness and suicides accelerate exponentially.
All is not well, friends.
The answer is not to further retreat behind our closed doors. We desperately need each other.
So what can we do?
I really believe that community starts right where you are. In small steps.
Sharing with the neighbors. Inviting people to your table. In older cultures, community always centered around good food.
I know some will tell us that it’s too dangerous to open our doors. Some will say we’re reckless.
But I say it’s too dangerous to shut ourselves off from each other.
We desperately need fellowship.