community [kuh–myoo-ni-tee] noun
it exists within
We are social creatures. We live to be with people. We live for conversation, support, and camaraderie, all of which are possible because of community.
I witnessed this weekend after leading a Kairos retreat, just how important community is in our lives. But I feel like our concept, our dictionary definition of community does not encapsulate the power of what community is to our lives.
I have gone on many retreats, but there is nothing quite like a Kairos retreat. The retreat truly takes you out of the everyday chaos and distraction and places you in God’s time. You are free to focus on yourself, and do so in the company of others. You hear leaders share their stories of finding and knowing themselves, their obstacles in their lives, their relationships, their life graph, their great blessings and graces, the love that exists in their lives and how to possibly live every day the best they can, all the while using each day as a way to create a better version of themselves.
These talks really inspire others to find their own connections to the stories they hear. They allow others to open up, to identify their own struggles and hurts and not be conquered by them any longer. But in doing so, in truly releasing themselves from the power of their struggles, they rely on the company of others. They share their hurts, fears, doubts and obstacles. They share their joys, ambitions, dreams and blessings, too. When there is a giving of one person to another, especially when it is a sharing of one’s own story, that is when community is built.
I believe a community does not rely merely on similarities but on a willingness to share, a desire to connect and the power to be for and with others.
Community relies on the elements of kinship and compassion. There is no hierarchy. There is no separation. We are not our own deserted islands going through life alone. We are never alone and we must never forget that. While we do have differences, we can all relate to one another. We all have some connection. We all, as Mother Teresa said, belong to one another. Only when we understand, support and celebrate one another can we build a community and only through community can harmony exist in our world.
This wonderful retreat reminded me of the importance of community. I heard such beautiful stories and told some of my own, and in a sense we wrote a pretty spectacular book on that retreat because our stories all became a part of something bigger.
“And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there is no telling where any of them may lead.”
I felt as if my family continues to grow with each retreat I go on and every new experience I have. I try my hardest to open my heart, my mind and my soul to others, even when I tend to keep my walls up. I found that others’ pain became my pain, and their joys my own as well. I felt for the first time in a long time that I was really feeling God because I was a part of something bigger. I wasn’t just on my own. I came home from this past weekend and hugged my parents, told my siblings I love them and texted so many friends to share my appreciation for them. Then I stood in my room and sobbed. I wasn’t sad, though. I was very much happy. I had taken on the hurts of others, and shared some of my own, but more importantly I became a bigger person from being allowed the opportunity to be given the hurts and joys of others. I was not alone, and my emotions showed me that.
And when we are not alone, when we open up, when we are willing to share ourselves with others that is the pivotal moment of our change into becoming the very best we can. Because we are no longer just living for ourselves, but for the people we love. We are no longer pushing ourselves to get by, but helping and supporting others to get by. We are no longer celebrating our own selves, but we are celebrating the power and passions of others. We are no longer untouched individuals, but persons more well-rounded and impacted because of the people who have taken a part of us with them, and also given us a part of themselves. That is when we truly live, because living for ourselves is ordinary, but living for others is quite spectacularly fulfilling.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
-John Donne, No Man Is An Island – Meditation XVII