In this season of Advent, I have been contemplating the role of community in building up gratitude in my own life, and I want to hear your stories.
Community is a beautiful thing—the overflow of friendships, marriages, churches, towns, traditions it adds joy to life. But community is also broken by imperfect people, or it can be difficult to build and hard to find. In my travels as an admissions counselor, I have contemplated often what it means to develop community when I am so far away from home myself. As I am in the throes of learning what it means in my own town, church, family, and workplace, I am certain you have learned many things I have not—I want to learn from you.
I often return to a number of questions that I cannot answer myself, and so I ask you. Would you be willing to share your stories? I would love to hear your stories and walk alongside you as build new communities—I want to sit in your living rooms and churches, to take walks in your neighborhoods and towns. I want to feel what it is like to live in your community.
Just maybe, as we piece together a patchwork quilt of the stories of your lives, we may begin to see how to build better communities. In order to start vibrant communities, we must see how they work on a day-to-day basis, even if inspired by history and literature, by Scripture and by reflection. Let us weave a tapestry of stories that inspire each other to live well in community.
I invite you to ask some of these questions with me and explore what it means to build a flourishing community.
1. How are you building community right now?
I want to read your stories. How does your phase of life, location, or culture change the way you build community? What have been the challenges and successes?
2. What are some of the habits of your community?
Perhaps the secret is your grandmother’s cooking, or Tuesday night evenings around your piano. These are the stories of everyday life, and they build memories and friendships that last.
3. How does a different context change the way you interact with your community?
How did people do community differently in the past and how can we learn from them? How did characters interact in the age of Jane Austen’s manners or of St. George and the dragon? I’d love to learn from what you are learning about community in a variety of different contexts.
4. What does community look like for those who are far from home? How do you build community when the surroundings seem foreign?
Let’s be honest. Sometimes community takes a lot of hard work; and sometimes even that hard work seems to make no difference. What are the big challenges of building a new community from scratch? What are the challenges for those who move across the country or across the world to a new place, a new home?
5. What are some examples of vibrant, thriving communities and how do we emulate them?
You could have read a great idea for community in a book and want to share it, or maybe you grew up with a great community that you’re trying to recreate now. Paint a picture for us of what a good, healthy community looks like!