I don’t do anything to make me worthy of love. I don’t deserve the care and love that I receive, yet people continue to love me regardless. That is community.
I love the feeling of living in community. Due to my developing social skills, my experience of community has changed significantly over the past few years and even more so over the past few months. I used to feel deeply connected in community by passively observing people communicate on blog communities. I very rarely if ever participated actively, but the sense of community and caring and trust and genuineness and love I felt towards and from these people felt really good. One of the communities I connected to was (in)courage ; these people were so real. I also felt so close to Gitz (Sara) that when she died I felt like I had lost a real friend. (Don’t feel too bad for me though–again because of my social skills I expected/still do expect people to eventually just disappear. I am used to relationships simply ending, and contrary to what my counselor last year tried to tell me, it does not make me hesitant to bother forming relationships; on the contrary, it causes me to jump all in quickly because I don’t know how long I will have this person in my life. This is why I sometimes meet someone one day and the next day they quite literally have my life story waiting for them in their facebook inbox…if you seem like a decent person I might as well jumpstart the relationship so I have as much time with you as possible if the friendship works out. I am getting a little better as my social skills grow at feeling out the relationship before just throwing everything out there, but I still am very quick to welcome people into my circle). Anyway, after that long tangent, at that time I also extensively used facebook. It has taken me a long time to figure out why I was doing it, but I have now realized that really what I was doing on facebook was having my equivalent of a conversation with people. At that time if you posted anything anywhere on facebook there was a very good chance I would see it. Because I didn’t have the social know how to really meet people in real life and keep up with them, I learned about them via the internet. I also am really bad with names, so some of what I was doing allowed me to at least learn which people are grouped together even if I still had trouble matching the names to the people.
Since then I have gotten a lot more comfortable socially. Blogs are still a major source of my community, but I am a lot more likely now to take an active role and actually comment on other people’s posts. I love that I can say what I am thinking and people will respond to my thoughts. It is incredible to be able to see that people really care.
The internet is wonderful for creating community between people who may otherwise never have the chance to communicate with one another. One really neat example of this was an article I saw on Yahoo about how American charity is wrecking Africa. Someone who actually lives in Africa commented on this noting that actually it is very necessary and appreciated. If clothing were not donated and sent to Africa for re-sell, there are many families who would not be able to afford to clothe their families. Additionally, the people who re-sell the clothing in Africa need the income in order to feed their families. Even if Africa had it’s own textile manufacturing industry, it would not be able to support as many people as the American donations are currently supporting, and ultimately it would make life more difficult for these people. While I already agreed with this person’s perspective, I loved that this person who has actually lived the life being discussed could add to the conversation that really the rest of us could only conjecture about. I hope he opened some minds to the fact that without living that life we can’t truly know what it is like.
While online community is fulfilling, it ends when someone shuts down their blog, dies, makes their posts private, the computer battery or internet fail, or the content becomes otherwise unavailable. Online community also cannot offer the same level of support that (in)RL (in real life) community can offer. One thing said of Gitz was that she chased after community. At one time in her description of herself she said that she used to write to make a living and now she blogs to make a life. She was homebound due to her illness, and people of her online community incorporated her into their offline lives even visiting her in her condo…so while online community can involve hugs and gifts and meals, this is something more commonly available in real life community.
This year, actually more specifically just these past few months I have begun to have the social confidence and ability to really be an active participant in real life community. I love it. Although my social anxiety makes me appear to be extremely introverted, on the inside I am a huge extravert, and the extraversion in this girl makes me crave community, and the real life community that has been forming around me has blessed me so much. I am starting to feel community wherever I am. I still communicate best with those outside of my peer group, but even amongst my peers I am becoming much more verbal.
A few weeks ago someone was telling me about how almost every ministry at my church spends the largest amount of their budget on hospitality. I really wasn’t that surprised. What I love about this church is the incredible sense of community, and to me, hospitality is the core of community. Holley Gerth posted on her blog that hospitality is opening your home the same way you open your heart, and I really think that giving people a safe place to congregate is the keystone in forming community. Church is actually the first in real life community I ever experienced, and Christian blogs (and facebook) were my first real experience with online community. I believe this is likely because of the way church people love others and accept them unconditionally. I am not saying non-Christians can’t act that way as well, but it has been my experience that Christians are more likely to stop and think about “the least of these,” and not avoid people who don’t have as much to contribute.
Ever since my first year in the city I currently reside in for school, people have been telling me about how awful this city is. I never fully believed them, though I took their concerns into consideration. Lately, though I have been reminded just how wrong all those people have been. I have seen incredible caring lately from people of this city. I am so amazed and have never seen this kind of thing before. A couple weeks ago, for example, someone noticed I had an out of state license plate and honked at me to get my attention to ask if I needed directions anywhere. I didn’t, but I really appreciated the thought. Another example is that last week someone I have never met stopped as I was walking along the sidewalk and asked if I needed a ride anywhere. I can’t even make this stuff up! Someone I’d never seen who’d never met me just offered me a ride! I turned him down because I was just going to Lot B to get my car and was only another block away in the opposite direction this person was going, but once again I was just so amazed at how a complete stranger would want to bless me. Another example I wanted to share that both involves this sense of community and my evolving social prowess was last week a couple girls started a conversation with me on the sidewalk, and I responded the best I knew how and we were going opposite directions so the conversation eventually stopped as we got too far apart to hear each other, but it was cool that we randomly could start talking and wish each other well…so yeah…
Okay, I know this is probably getting a little ridiculously long, because I intended to give myself a half hour break to write this, and it has now been nearly two hours, but there was one last thing I wanted to mention…Right now I am in the process of getting to know someone the “normal people way” and it is really cool to be able to do that for the first time. It is really cool that I have never been on this person’s facebook page, nor have I ever seen her blog (if she has one), but I have been able to get to know her over the past few weeks and she has gotten to know me, and I really like being able to actively participate in community building. That just shows how amazing my God is. It is hard to believe that at the beginning of this school year I was rarely even talking to my counselor and on the rare occasion I actually said something it was usually yes or no and had to be repeated multiple times before I was understood because it was so difficult for me to get the words out. Now I am able to talk to my counselor and be understood, and even interrupt and attempt to finish sentences, and I am learning to do the same outside of counseling. I love it…I had a lot of other things I wanted to write about community, but it is past time for me to stop writing and do at least a little studying before I crash for the night.
Have a beautiful day community members, I love you 🙂 (In a non-creepy kind of way)