Tension in Community
Continuing our conversation about community, I’d like to introduce you to Christine. Christine is a friend from long ago who sang at my wedding, the one where I broke the rules and stood in the balcony and listened to the music before walking down the aisle. I’m thankful our paths have crossed again. She blogs about her life after divorce, and the constant reinvention of ourselves that comes with living authentically. Check it out here. She’s also an Innovations Process Facilitator (gets paid to be super creative and help people think outside the box) at Ideas to Go.
Friendship is a strong and habitual inclination in two persons to promote the good and happiness in another. – Eustace Budgell
I’ve been blessed to have some wonderful communities in my life. And the older I get and the more challenges I’ve faced, the more important those communities have become for me.
The biggest thing I’ve learned about communities is that they lay in the tension between opposites: giving and receiving; strength and vulnerability; attention and space and work and fun.
My biggest community is through my Unitarian church. We actually call ourselves the “Beloved Community.” While the words are slightly corny, the intent behind it is sincere and a focus of our attention. It’s not just a community; it’s one that we love, nurture and value. But I also have communities of good friends (a notable community of moms whose kids went to a Montessori school together about 8 years ago), work friends, and family members.
The biggest tension of opposites is that you need to both give and receive to make community work. I’ve always understood the giving part. I love being a leader in my church, helping others, teaching classes, leading services, initiating projects. But I went through a divorce 18 months ago and I had to call on my community for help. It took vulnerability (not my strong suit) for emotional support (a shoulder to cry on) and functional tasks (will you help me move AGAIN?) but it was then that I realized how important it was to me. And it was important to my friends to give back to me. It sealed the mutual cycle of giving and receiving. And being both strong and vulnerable within this gives us the space to be authentic.
I have a busy life. There have been times in my life that I’ve just disappeared from my community for a month or two. But I realize how strong my community is when I come back. I’m so grateful for the space that I can take and the welcome I receive when I come back. I actually think it makes the community stronger. It isn’t a needy community–it has space for people to leave and come back. But when they come back they reinstate the ties that made them strong in the first place.
And finally, I think the best memories come from doing hard work together. I know that the strongest connections have come from doing impossible things–or meaningful things–together. We created the tightest community the years some friends and I put together a summer camp program for inner city kids–it was the impossible, impeccably done. And even last week, our church community stepped up in a major way when a beloved member and pillar of the Orlando community died. We hosted a beautiful funeral for over 500 people (when our sanctuary holds about 280), pulling together all the resources that a congregation can muster. And it pulled us together in amazing ways because we wanted to show our love for Joe’s wife and family. It made me love these people even more and strengthened our community in a big way.
So, there are my thoughts. Community through the tension of opposites. It is work to create and maintain relationships. But it is meaningful work and the rewards are some of the most important that you’ll have in your lives.