Neighborhood (from Dictionary.com):
Community (from Dictionary.com):
Growing up on a farm in Iowa, I did not get the neighborhood experience. My closest friend lived a miles (yes, a whole mile) away from me (and yes, I did walk that once or twice). However, the farming families of Iowa were intentional in creating a COMMUNITY, maybe not one based on how close in mileage your neighbors were, like a neighborhood, but a COMMUNITY of shared experiences, relationships, and culture. I never felt that I lacked for COMMUNITY, and when we were in need, it was COMMUNITY that surrounded us in love.
I found COMMUNITY in both of the undergrad colleges that I attended......COMMUNITY in the military....COMMUNITY in Maryland through our church.
Then, nine years ago, Darrell and I decided to move our (then) young family - Evan (6), Ann-Marie (3), and Alec (15 months) - to Beaver County, Pennsylvania.....away from the COMMUNITY we had been investing in for the past 7 years. All of our children had been born in Maryland and we were finally at a time where we felt comfortable in the area.....but due to job difficulties, cost of living, and desiring to be closer to family, we decided to move.
Beaver County, Pennsylvania.....a place where (upon first glance) everyone either went to high school together, was related somehow, or had connections to one another. I had never lived there....how in the world was I going to find a COMMUNITY.....one that cared about me as much as I wanted to care about them? At the stage of life I was at.....how was I going to find the time and energy to invest in, connect with, and build relationships like that? I was terrified.
Nine years later.....and I can tell you that we have found that COMMUNITY....the kind of COMMUNITY that surrounds each other in times of happiness and in sorrow and in the everyday normal stuff that happens. Back to the picture.....this is the kind of COMMUNITY that takes your dirty laundry into their own homes to wash it for you because your washing machine has been broken for 3 weeks (my very dear husband has tried and tried to fix it, but to no avail.....we will be getting a new machine soon.) And this is not just one or two friends.....but several friends who have stepped up with offers of practical help. (Now those are some good friends who are willing to wash and fold your family's underwear!)
How did we find such a loving and gracious COMMUNITY? I have been thinking about this a lot lately due to our laundry situation, and have come up with three thoughts about forming COMMUNITY:
1. Vulnerability: You have to let them in. Sometimes it is easier to seek people out then to let them in. I have not always been very good at this, and I still struggle with it. But in order for connection to take place, you have to be real. Forming COMMUNITY is not sharing (in life or on social media) only what is going well in your life or your "perfect" side, but also your struggles, where you do not have it together, and your difficulties. People want to see the real YOU before they want to commit to forming a COMMUNITY with you.
2. Availability: This one is hard also....I didn't say COMMUNITY was easy. You do have to be available for someone else. This might mean being available when they need to talk, being available to help them out, or being available to do something practical for them. If you do not make space in your life for others, it is likely you will have a hard time finding COMMUNITY.
3. Give AND Take: Oh, how easy it is for most of us to give. We want the satisfaction that we will never be the one in need. But that is the opposite of how COMMUNITY works. You have to be able to take graciously also (see laundry picture - handing over your dirty clothes is NOT easy).
So thank you.....thank you to our church (Pathway), thank you to our homeschool coop and athletic organization (Plants and Pillars), thank you to our gymnastics family (Arcadia), and thank you to our neighbors, friends, and family in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, where we have found a wonderful COMMUNITY.
From my Bible reading this morning: