C is for Community

New weekly musings inspired by the alphabet: 
The one thing that is getting us through the pandemic.
The one thing that we are missing as the pandemic drags on. 

And not community in terms of public health and the spread of the virus, 
but in terms of our human need for each other. 

According to Matthew Lieberman, Professor of Psychology at UCLA: 
“Being socially connected is our brain’s lifelong passion…
It’s been baked into our operating system for tens of millions of years.” 
We seek community.
We need community.
We thrive because of community.
We are community. 

Even if we are introverts who can go days without interacting with another human being, we still find ourselves craving face-to-face conversation, a hug, a laugh with someone else. 
That’s our need for connection – that which is baked into the human operating system. 

This perhaps has been the greatest struggle of the pandemic: maintaining our crucial social connections, maintaining our sense of belonging to a community – 
in the midst of isolation. 

In his book, The Courage To Teach, Parker J. Palmer wrote this about community:
“Only as we are in communion with ourselves can we find community with each other: Community is an outward and visible sign of inward and invisible grace, the flowing of personal identity and integrity into the world of relationships.”

I never though of community like that – in terms of grace. 
The grace of community.
The grace of welcome.
The grace of hospitality.
The grace of acceptance.
The grace of belonging.
The grace of love. 

When you google “the grace of community”, you get churches named Grace Community Church, and you get church statements that include the phrase “we are a community of grace”. 

A community of grace is one that welcomes everyone, no matter who they are, what they do or have done. 
A community of grace believes each person has something to be valued, and encourages those who feel outside the accepted places to find the ways they can share their gifts.

So the grace of community is that welcome, that honouring, that encouragement – 
all provided without judgement. 
It’s the unconditional love – 
the compassion, the kindness, the mercy, the acceptance – 
we are called to offer one another. 
Even the stranger, and even more so, the strange. 

Grace is that little tag line, “Everyone is welcome. Come as you are.” 
The grace of community means it’s true – come as you are. 

If we are able to offer love and acceptance and kindness and encouragement to others, 
we create an exquisite circle of giving and receiving, of sharing, of exchanging. 
A circle that is always able to open further to invite others in – 
the ever-expanding grace of community that represents the best of everything that is hard-wired into humanity’s operating system. 

~ SJ


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