True Community

The girl wore a black hoodie and jeans. She passed me in the airport, saying, “Hello” and giving me a generous stare. My initial reaction was to press closer to my husband, thinking, “She’s strange. Do I know her? Does she know me? What’s happening right now?” The race of thoughts clouded my mind and before I could open my mouth to the girl, she had disappeared in the sea of faces.

My Pappaw used to say, “If someone waves at you, wave back.”

What if I had said “hello” to the girl in the black hoodie? Would that have sparked a conversation? Would I have discovered a kindred spirit?

An overwhelming belief now exists that the world is a smaller place, that we are more aware, that our lives are more connected.

But I’m not so sure. I think we live in pseudo community. We can “poke” a random person on Facebook, but we can’t say “hello” to another human being? The community we have created for ourselves actually allows us to live in isolation. We have complete control in this community. There is no vulnerability. No openness. No genuine warmth.

Creating a Facebook status isn’t the same as having a conversation. Twitter can’t replace deep emotions. The “Beauty Face” selfie posted on Instagram doesn’t reflect honesty.

As shown my own recoil at a stranger’s gesture of friendliness, chances at genuine encounters with our fellow humans are often aborted by hesitancy and suspicion. Unfortunately, bad things do happen. There are terror attacks, and robberies, and road rage shootings, and hate crimes. People have the potential to do terrible things. However, there is also the potential for great good.  If our reaction to violence is to put ourselves inside a bubble, how will that help the world be a better place?

I’m not advocating spilling your guts to everyone who passes by. That’s a term called “oversharing” and is another topic for another blog post. What I’m talking about is dropping our guard a little, letting go of facades, and seeking honest relationships.

True community begins when I let myself be vulnerable. Author and noted “Shame” researcher Brene Brown calls this “Showing up and letting yourself be seen.” I stop posturing to your concept of me. I aim for truth. I allow opinions other than mine to be discussed. I approach my world with grace and peace. I choose to believe that if I connect with another person, if I relate to them with genuineness and acceptance, there is great potential for change.

How are we going to address world hunger? How are we to respond to the 27 million slaves still in the world? How are we going to stop terrorism? What are we going to do about suicide rates? What are we going to do for the homeless people? The single parents? The women in underprivileged countries? The underdogs? The weak?

The only chance our world has for conquering these issues is for you and me to embrace community. We have to band together, working on a greater scale than we could ever do on our own. Community: a rescue mission in a downtown area supported by volunteers. Community: a small, sit down dinner to foster conversations and dreams. Community: a group painting the nursery for an expectant mother. Community: I listen to you, you listen to me, and together we find solutions.

God has a plan for the world—a redemptive one. This plan includes those who are willing to step up, speak out, and do the dirty work. It’s easy to chat about the grand and glorious ideals (or even to write a blog post about it). It sounds pleasing to wax philosophical over a beer with a friend.

The ideals must meet the practical.

Jesus started his work on earth at a wedding. He fulfilled a physical need. Wine for the party. His way of building community began with helping out a bride and groom. He didn’t isolate Himself. He showed up and let Himself be seen. He engaged with everyone, even those who weren’t considered worthy. The sinners and the outcasts and the rejected found a place at Jesus’ table.

When we can put aside our archaic notions, when we can drop the facade, when we can let go of feeling superior, true connections happen.

I feel it starts with a wave,

Which can lead to a “hello”,

Which can lead to a friendship,

Which can lead to a community,

Which can lead to peace.

I went out running today. There was a guy wearing a green hoodie with the symbol of the Green Lantern on it. I waved.

“Nice hoodie.”


He waved back.

Change is around the corner. I welcome it.

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