It takes a community.
As long as I’ve been an adult I’ve been reminded, again and again, of how individualistic Western society is. Surely, individualism is the seed of entrepreneurship. Each one of us has gifts, talents, smarts that we cannot contain within ourselves. Our talents are necessary for the whole community to flourish. However, when we allow our individualism to isolate us, to deprive us of the creative ideas of others, to turn us into combative souls, vying for space and resources and goods, then we have allowed individualism to destroy us.
As the leader of a faith community for many years, I learned what community can give. Community breaks isolation. Community is a place where others know your name. Community is the place where you are asked: “how are you?” and the question is for real. Community is the place where folks are genuinely concerned for “the other.” Community is the place where transitions – death, loss, change – are honored. Community is the place where it is safe to come when you are lonely. The people in community are the ones you call when you are sick and need a ride, or when you have a question to ask about some practical matter. Community is the place where an idea may arise that you didn’t have – an idea that solves your problem.
It takes a community to break down the barriers of individualism, those high walls we have so often built around ourselves. I expect that there is a “feel” to community – a “feel” of safety, of boundaries, of being connected, a feel of being solid. That “feel” comes from the presence of other people, other people who look out for you – just as you look out for them.
Sometimes, a neighborhood is a community. A neighborhood where others know what’s going on, a place where folks come out from their homes onto the street when something happens. A place where people know who lives here and who doesn’t. A neighborhood can be the place where the owners of the shops are also part of the network of relationships.
It takes a community. If you are isolated today, then I invite you to start – NOW! – to look for a community. Find a place where others have your interests. Find a place where you meet like-minded people. Find a place where people are having fun. Find a place where someone thinks to ask your name, to extend a hand. Next time, you can be that person for someone else.
As the world gets smaller through technology, travel and changing populations, our own community gets bigger. The folks we are in conflict with are across the globe. What used to be turf protection in one place involves the politics, economics, histories, and conflicts of many places. Your community, and mine – for better or for worse – is the world. Can we live in community with one another? It takes a community.