Finding Community (Where You Least Expect It)

Even when you feel disconnected, you’re part of something larger than yourself. Your community is not just who you already know—it flows in abundance when you’re in need.

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A global pandemic is a very inconvenient time to fall into the arms of cancer, chemotherapy, and hospital hijinx. And yet there we were, my husband and I, suddenly facing zillions of jagged little decisions and challenges. Meanwhile, everyone we knew also seemed to be struggling—with health, money, or relationships. Yet somehow, even during this time of seemingly ferocious division on planet earth, our wide-ranging network revealed itself to be a community that rose up to support us. Who knew community even still existed?

Community is an abundant ever-changing flow of spontaneous friendliness that might only be there for a precious moment.

When you live in a big city it is easy to imagine that no one cares. It can feel difficult to connect with others or hold relationships together. We might feel isolated, and that we are not part of a community. But consider this: Community is an abundant ever-changing flow of spontaneous friendliness that might only be there for a precious moment. It can be composed of long-nourished friendships or family; or, it could be a kind nurse you might never see again.

When we open to seeing ourselves as part of a living, breathing organism known as community, we recognize the communal interweave of the person we buy a donut from, the children who run by us on the street, someone crying on a bench, or singing in the park. As much as we might try to avoid this circus of humanity, we can’t escape each other. Letting go of our expectation of how community is supposed to be there for us allows us to rest more easily in the ocean of love and support that might come from unexpected directions: the pharmacist, colleagues, people who haven’t been in touch for years, a fellow traveler on the street.

The Power of One Small Gesture

Community is a mindset, rather than a concrete structure. It’s ever-changing and can manifest in so many different ways. In our case, some days there’d be a jar of soup, a casserole, or flowers left on our doorstep. Other days there might be heart emojis and rides to the hospital. There seemed to be no end to people’s generosity and what I noticed was that so little was needed. The smallest gesture of reaching out was a powerful and remarkable way to communicate connection and inclusion. We felt loved and held in so many ways!

In spite of all the things that don’t seem to make our community a community, there is a common desire to care and be part of something.

The people in our community don’t necessarily know each other. Our community is made up of people who have differing viewpoints and radically differing lives. Some of them barely know us at all. In spite of all the things that don’t seem to make our community a community, there is a common desire to care and be part of something. And out of that desire, the supportive net known as community is formed. It doesn’t take much. Just the willingness to see the magic of connection—and leave or receive the odd jar of soup on the porch.

A Mindful Practice to Nurture Community

Explore this meditation to help you nurture the buds of community that bloom where you might least expect it.

  1. Imagine someone you are having some difficulty with. Take a breath and allow yourself to look into the eyes of this person. Picture them as a little child, maybe four years old. Can you delight in the sparkle and beauty and uniqueness of this wondrous being? Imagine, if they were your own child, how you would wish them well, keep them safe. Picture them aging. See them take a blow, a shame, a hurt, an indignity. Allow yourself to know they have experienced hurts you cannot imagine, burdens, terrors, sorrows, failures, losses, loneliness, addiction, disappointment, rage, and no end to sadness or despair.
  2. Let yourself be open to knowing you don’t have to fix them or heal them, but perhaps you can just be with them. Feel the ache and the terror and simply open to being there. As you look again into the eyes of this being, can you also see the spark of joy, the muddy boots running wild through the backwoods, the potential for happiness, the wit, the laughter?
  3. Imagine reaching out and wishing them well. Picture the potential for joyful camaraderie, the moments of ease, the relief of kindness. See the web of connection and know that we all want to be happy. We all want to be safe. We all want to belong. Open your eyes and see community flowing toward you, everywhere.

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