My focus this year is on creating and inspiring community. So far I’ve been reaching out more to people I want to create or strengthen relationships with, and attending more events I would normally skip. A few weeks of nasty sickness have held us back from socializing the way I would like to, but it’s let me focus on something else: getting back to the basics.
In my experience, community really thrives when everything else is pared down. When outside distractions, screens, and our busy lives take a pause, connection grow.
This was my thought as we approached the Lenten season. Now, Baptists don’t actually celebrate Lent. However, I’ve always been a bit of a secret Methodist, and I’ve celebrated Lent alone since fourth grade, when I met a Methodist girl who would become a close friend. She had given up pickled peppers for Lent, which sounds silly in retrospect, but pickled peppers were something she ate every day. It was a big sacrifice for a kid.
For years, I stumbled along, taking cues from my different-denominational friends. I gave up caffeine, my morning vice. I gave up sweets, which just made me really sad.
This year, in my quest to create more community, I sat down and did a real inventory of my life. What was weighing me down spiritually?
The answer was stuff.
Stuff is holding me back. Like most of you, I’m prone to wanting the most, the best, the newest. Then when I get it, what happens? I just want the next best thing.
So, for Lent, I’m doing two things. I cut my wardrobe down to 25 pieces of clothing. And I’m keeping a gratitude prayer journal.
So what does this have to do with creating Community?
When you stop focusing on having the best stuff, the prettiest house, or the fanciest zip code, you can start creating community right where you are.
It doesn’t matter if you forget to buy disposable cups and all your guests have to drink out of mugs (which is more eco-friendly anyway)! It doesn’t matter if your kid has rubbed their face on your sweater and your hair is still in a Mom-bun.
All you need to create and inspire community is the willingness to listen and a place to gather. It can be a park. It can be a house. It can be a coffee shop. It can be a group message on Facebook.
It can be hard to go against your instincts and let others see your imperfections and your sharp edges. It can be hard to open the hurt in your heart.
But we have to let go a little a bit at a time. Let go of your need for control. Let go of your ego. Let go of your snap judgments and your Pinterest dreams. Let go of consumerism.
Hold onto an open heart.