It really started in college. I was not the gal who went out and partied on Friday and Saturday nights. I was more likely to spend my time with my roommate, watching movies and gossiping about boys, or hanging out with a couple of friends in their rooms… watching movies and gossiping about boys. My Freshman and Sophomore years looked pretty identical in that regard; classes would end for the week and we'd go grab dinner someplace cheap, head home or to a friends, stay way past midnight, and do it all again the following night.
Over time these people that I spent so much time with became my community. They were not necessarily people that I would have met in my usual travels, but there was something about that time spent together that allowed us to open up and have those talks that really only happen as the night wears on and guards are dropped. We became closer, and closer, and eventually they became the people that I would call when things got rough or life became just a bit too much. I knew no matter what that they would lend an ear, or an arm, or a shoulder, and that the feeling was quite mutual.
Junior year we all moved off campus. It was then that our little community expanded and I learned just how vital we were to each other's lives. We couldn’t just walk down the hall and knock on the door, but that did not deter us at all. In my first apartment we became the place to be—my roommate and I had an open-door policy, so it was not uncommon that other friends would just pop by and stay until the next day eating grilled cheese, playing cards, and talking about anything and everything under the sun. It was during my second semester of Junior year when I really had to lean on this group of people to make it through.
I remember the day vividly: I had been out with friends doing skits and hanging out with some kids at a local detention center and was headed back to my apartment to do some homework. My roommate had moved back home and so I was in the apartment by myself for the Spring semester. I walked in and saw a message on the machine. I pressed play and heard my mother on the other end asking that I give her a call. My mother hated answering machines, so I knew if she was leaving a message for me to call as soon as possible that it was something important. My father had been in the hospital a few months earlier, and so he was fresh on my mind when I made the call. When my mother answered I could tell almost immediately that something was not right. There was a heaviness in her voice. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I honestly don't remember how she told me, I just remember hearing the words “brother,” “shot,” and “murdered.” I felt the wind knocked out of me right then and there. She told me my father would be down in a couple days to bring me home. I asked her if she was okay, and the strongest person I know answered with a quiet, “I will be.” We hung up shortly after and I just remember the apartment being exceptionally quiet and lonely. You could hear a pin drop as I sat there processing what had just happened.
The words hung in the living room as I wracked my brain for what to do next. I called my roommate, who was a couple hundred miles away, and told her while choking back tears She asked if I needed anything. I could not tell her much, just that my dad would be there in a couple of days, and if she would, to pray for me. We ended our conversation and I called another friend who lived in town. It did not come as easily the second time around but I forced the story out, telling her what I knew. She told me she would be right there. Fifteen minutes later she arrived with four other friends who left their softball game to be by my side. It was well after ten that night, and they told me that they would drive me the three hours home so I could be with my family right away. I protested, saying it was okay, but they insisted. I called my mom to tell her we were on our way and within the hour we were on the road. The trip was quiet at times, hilarious at others. When we arrived home they popped in for a brief moment, and then headed back to school. After all the dust had settled and I came back to school, people came over and cleaned my house, stayed with me when I just could not sleep, and kept me distracted when I was simply exhausted from the sadness of it all. This was my first taste of what the beauty of community is, and it was not my last.
Over the years, I have experienced so many different types of community. They have formed over coffee, beers, hard conversations, and terrible films. We have been brought together through a common thread, but what has kept us together was taking the time to know and be known. Those times were not always wonderful, but they were always meaningful and cherished. In our community, healing and transformation took place for all parties involved. What I have realized over the years is that we were never supposed to go through this life alone. We were created to know others and be known by others. The burden is so much easier when it's distributed and not just shouldered.
So I ask you, where are the places and spaces in your life where you are known? Who are you working on getting to know? Finding your fit may not happen immediately, and there may be some bumps along the way, but don't lost heart—there is a community, crew, tribe, or family out there for you.