The Power of Community
A love of books goes hand in hand with a love of writing. Often times, I’ve found, so does a love of movies.
I’m not sure if it’s the desire to escape into fantasy, the ability to shut off a constantly running mind, or simply the ease with which one can immerse themselves in a foreign world, but most creatives love film. Ever since I was old enough to see above the seat in front of me, I too have loved movies.
Occasionally, while engaging in a particularly amusing or unique experience, I’ll pretend that I actually am in a movie. Or, I’ll step outside of myself in the situation, and look at what I’m doing from the perspective an audience would.
Last night was one of those times.
Sitting around me at the handmade wooden table were people so interesting, they reminded me of characters in an indie film.
There was Chris, the author in the faded boat shoes, jeans, and newsboy cap, whose long blonde hair and scruffy beard matched his outside-the-grind personality. He leaned back in his chair and spent ten minutes describing the food in each city he had lived in the past three years, chewing over the words as if they were savory morsels.
Then there was Amanda. She reminded me of a sweeter version of a character from a show about 20 something girls in a big city. Only she was in my city, which isn’t very big. Dressed in a light lace shirt and high waisted pants, she kept her hair back with a small rose pin. While humbly talking about the blog she helps write, she casually took out a flier from her notebook. It was for a local business trying to crowd-source enough money for a vegan food truck.
Her friend, also named Amanda, was brought along for moral support. Donning a large jade statement necklace, she looked every part the vegan photographer she was. Despite being the lone artist who used visuals, not words, to present her craft, she seemed at ease among the group of writers.
Lastly, there was Jared, whose table we were scattered around. Jared, who came up with the idea to start, and lead, a community of local Jacksonville writers, fueled by a passion to make the city a serious literary presence. It’s his relaxed personality, friendliness, and eagerness to learn from others, that has helped make his dream, Left on Mallory, a reality.
And then there’s me.
Me, who before, never felt “cool” enough to sit at a table full of people that could inspire indie movie characters. Me, a person who for a long time, struggled to feel like she belonged at any table, at all.
It was last night, leaving the writers group meeting, stopping for a minute to talk to Chris, that I thought, “Oh. This is that feeling I’ve been missing.”
I finally felt like I belonged.
Strange enough, this wasn’t the first time in the past few months that feeling has come over me.
While communicating with the 49 other participants of the upcoming Reformation Project, I’ve felt it too. Even though I’ve not yet met a single person, while talking to them, and reading their thoughts on the Bible and the academic papers we’re trudging through, I sense that same tingle of recognition.
What I realized, while unpacking all of these emotions, is that God is behind this new-found sense of belonging. Not in a cliche’d, “there’s a reason for everything” way. More like, “This is what you feel when you start living the life you’re meant to.”
Despite their cooler personalities, clothes, and experiences, which normally would make me feel aloof, I felt at home among the writers I met last night. And despite the fact that most of the reformers I’m going to meet in September are all gay, and have lived through vastly different experiences than me, I feel at home with them as well.
I hate that it took me over two decades to realize this, but community is not about race, or sexuality, or income. It’s not about surrounding yourself with people who look and think like you do.
Community is about what happens when people striving towards the same goal come together.
I don’t think I ever really got that before. Which is probably why I struggled with sticking with other communities I joined in the past.
God has brought me into the communities I’m apart of now, through little-to-no work of my own, to show me how powerful and life-giving it is to not work alone.
Which is odd, for someone like me, who craves solitude.
But what Left on Mallory, and The Reformation Project has shown me, is that alone, I’m rather weak. Prone to quitting. Easily frustrated.
As part of a community of others working towards the same thing, I’m emboldened. Revived. Determined not to give up.
I’m incredibly grateful for both of these communities, and excited about what will come in the future for them, and me as a part of them. And for the first time, I’m shifting my view of the future from what, “I want,” to “what is best for us.”
The great part is, there’s much more freedom from the future when the “I” becomes, “we.”