To be community…

I’ve been active in some aspects of social media for several years, beginning with a chat room I helped manage for my faith denomination for several years. One of the comments I often got–and still get–is that while chatting with others online is nice and fun, it can’t take the place of “real” community. I disagree.

Yes, I’ve experienced my share of on-the-surface conversations that didn’t really get into anything serious or deep. But I’ve also had the opportunity of sharing in discussions that have been deeper than any face-to-face conversations I’ve ever had…that have touched topics and concerns that I’ve never had to deal with before.

I remember the first time I met some of my online friends for the first time. We were meeting at a restaurant, and as we gathered–wearing our name tags with both our real names and our online names–we were laughing and joking. The waitress asked how long we’d known each other…and was surprised when several of us said that we’d never met, but we’d been friends for years. That just didn’t make sense to her…but it did to us.

I am currently a member of several private groups. Those groups vary in size from just a few members to being quite large. But because they are private, the friends I have in them find them safe places to share…prayer concerns, rants that they can’t share anywhere else, frustrations, joys, questions they need answers to that they don’t feel safe asking anywhere else. We don’t agree on many issues–but that doesn’t keep us from developing a sense of community.

Jean Vanier of L’Arche (an intentional community of peoples of differing abilities) says

“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”

In a world that is getting smaller and more inter-connected daily, we must find ways to connect with each other…to become community with and for each other. It’s not easy…but without developing that sense of community, we will not survive.

 

Can’t fix everything

Sometimes I think life would be easier if I didn’t have the personality of a “fixer.” I want everything to be right for those I love…and I want to do everything I can to make it right. Sometimes that’s an admirable stance to take, but sometimes it’s not helpful.

Sometimes people have to fail in order to truly understand the consequences of their actions. Sometimes they have to let others down and hit rock bottom before they can begin to heal and become the people they have the potential to be.

It’s easier to see that when I look at someone else’s family. It’s a lot more difficult when I look at my own.

It’s also easier to see when someone has made it through and you can look at their lives with the perspective of knowing how things are going to turn out. But when you’re in the middle of the process, it’s a lot harder.

“The school of hard knocks”…learning things the hard way…that’s a phrase often used. Some people seem to be able to learn from the hard knocks and experiences of others…but some have to suffer the hard knocks themselves.

There’s a really fine line between continuing to enable someone in their less-than-helpful behaviors and setting boundaries that may cause them to fall. You can know in your heart that setting those boundaries is the best thing you can do in the long run, but it can certainly be heartbreaking in the short run.

Unfortunately, there is much in literature that promotes the idea of being a fixer…of being the person who can set things right…who can change the “bad boy” (or “bad girl”) into someone more acceptable. They’re also sometimes the romanticized martyrs, who die in the process of trying to correct things.

Life doesn’t work that way. If I keep trying to fix someone’s life, all I’m doing is creating a puppet, and that’s not what I want to do either.

Each of us has to learn on our own. We can (and must) support each other in the process, but sometimes the most loving thing we can do for someone is to allow them to fall…without stepping in to rescue them from the consequences of their actions. That doesn’t mean walking away from them, but it does mean allowing them to learn how to live in the real world rather than the fantasized and romanticized perfect world they may prefer inhabiting.

And I have to trust…trust that there is a thread that keeps us connected, and that even if they walk away, at some point they will return…trust that there is someone else (God, the Divine, whatever phrase you want to use) who will continue to walk with them, no matter what.

being a parent