Today, Jenny Anderson reminded me to “keep connecting with people, and in time, you will have a community.”
For many years now, Dawn (my wife) and I have discussed, wrestled with, and explored community. We’ve had our highs and lows, experiencing sweet community in places like Manitou Springs, CO, Chiang Mai, Thailand, and San Francisco, CA. We’ve also experienced the discouraging lack of community in other places we’ve lived. In each location we’ve learned new lessons about how—and how not to—build community.
One such lesson is the importance of simply connecting with and loving the people around us. That includes the people who live across the street, fellow parents at our child’s dojo, or people we happen to meet in a coffee shop. We daily come into contact with all kinds of people, and we can’t control how they treat the people around them. But we can control how we treat the people around us. And that includes caring for, in word and action, every person with whom we come into contact.
Our experience has been that we develop authentic community when we seek to love our neighbors (in my book, that includes everyone), and over time when—sometimes quickly and sometimes not—our neighbors seek to love us. When we make those connections on a daily basis, we create and cultivate community.
I’m reminded also of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words:
The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.Dietrich Bonhoeffer
There have been times in my life when I would seek community, talk about community, or attempt to build community according to some predefined idea. But, as Bonhoeffer recognized, I often loved the dream of community instead of actually loving the people around me, and allowing those acts of love to create community.
Jenny Anderson and Dietrich Bonhoeffer are right, and we would do well to put their words into practice every day. Connect with your neighbor, love your neighbor, serve your neighbor, and allow them to do the same to you. When you do that every day, over time you will experience deep, long-lasting community.