14 May 2011

Community as a place to love

Being immersed in the community events of Easter weekend, one of the things that struck me the most was how community provides us a way to love others.

In 'regular' life, it's quite possible to interact with very few people. The interactions we do have with people often remain limited to customary greetings, discussion of the weather or sharing plans for the weekend: unless we've known people longer, more than this makes most people feel uncomfortable. Even though families usually form an exception to this, as do church communities (especially ones with small groups), there's still not a lot of opportunity or push in our society to show concern for others different than us in any kind of non-abstract way.

In community, however, there's the challenge and desire to reach out to those who are very different (and not always so lovable). And sharing meals together and doing dishes together creates a level of intimacy that sometimes makes it either to get past the socially polite conversational norms. That doesn't mean that conversations in community are necessarily deeper: what with all the organisation necessary, it can be hard sometimes to get past all 'to-do' lists simply to ask how others are doing.

Yet, simply being together and trying to pay attention to others opens my eyes to others - and warms my heart to them. And so the stubborn child who refuses to eat becomes less annoying and more of a delightful puzzle - and I can become aware of the mom's patience (and not just wonder about how competent she is). And I learn about people's parents or holidays - and I delight in how faces light up when you ask about their (grand)kids or coming adventures. And we can laugh together about crazy cat stories or about the dangers of biking in Amsterdam - and somehow the other persons stop being 'other' and simply become family.

Sometimes we love others because we want to be needed. I know that I struggle with wanting too much to be appreciated (and chosen as best) by others. Perhaps community helps also with that - because even the neediest person who joins the community doesn't need my love: it's the love of so many in the community that makes the difference. My love simply gets to be part of that whole work that God is doing. And seeing as God is involved in it, it's hardly surprising that I also receive love from those in the community - sometimes in unexpected ways.

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