I am blessed with an abundance of family and friends but still at times I want to be left alone.
There is escape in being alone. Being aloof and noncommittal can feel like freedom. Freedom from obligations. Freedom to do what I want to do. Freedom from other people’s misery. And sometimes I desperately long for that freedom. But freedom can lead to apathy and avoidance, and then I risk becoming insensitive to others’ needs.
This is why I am blessed to be in a community. A community of family and friends; a community of believers; a community of people who witness to me on a daily basis. I am constantly reminded that I need community. And I am strengthened and nourished by community. Community also allows me to share my limited gifts with others. I am humbled in knowing that I can bring goodness (God) to others.
Recently I learned of a father in our parish who suffered a stroke. His wife and young sons seem bewildered and are no doubt suffering immensely. As I stumbled to find a few words of comfort to offer to the mother, I saw a tiny glimpse of (relief?) (appreciation?) cross her troubled face. A small kindness that I couldn’t have offered her if we were not in community.
Two other young families of our parish have recently had babies. One family had their third daughter and they are delighted. I told the Daddy, with a wink, that raising three girls means that he “will get to go straight to heaven”. The other family had a set of twins which brings their brood to a total of five. I greet them each week and share in their joy and their exhaustion. We’ve taken them an occasional meal to ease their burden. What a blessing to be in community with them. These young families give me hope for our future.
In my small faith community, I have dear friend who has just received the gift of remission from her battle with cancer. I thank God and share in her joy! She is a testament to hopefulness and faith. She inspires me.
The tragic news of deaths and destruction due to tornadoes this week has been heartbreaking. But once again, I see communities coming together to help each other. The horrific news of yet another school shooting leaves me shaken and frightened. I have a daughter who is a teacher and five school-age grandchildren. How can we continue to watch as our babies are slaughtered? Once again, community steps in. We grieve the losses and bury the tiny bodies. On the saddest of days, I often want to pull the shades and climb under the covers, but I must use my voice and my vote. My letters to my senators and congressman may likely fall on deaf ears but I will continue to write, and protest, and vote! Because that’s what community does.
When my parents died, my community surrounded me with love and concern. We shared laughter and tears, and I could not have made it through those dark days without their hands to hold. When I retired last year, my community helped me navigate the uncertainty of life without a career. When my granddaughter was recently chosen “Mission Model” for her freshman class, because “she uses her voice for good and promotes human dignity”, my community shared my joy and pride in her accomplishment.
I am blessed to be part of a community who will carry me when I cannot walk, guide me when I am lost, and exalt with me in my days of jubilation. Being alone might feel like freedom, but my life has meaning when shared with others. Community matters.