Thoughts on Community

I received an email this morning:.

“Neighbors.. I had a visit from a detective last night. On Friday evening a little after 10 pm there were two related events in the neighborhood. One was a hold up about four blocks away as a woman was getting into her car. The second at 10:40 was in the alley. A woman was coming home from work and had parked on their slab. As she got out the suspect approached with a gun which he put to her head. He took her purse and phone and the locked her in the trunk of her car. She used the trunk release to escape. I thought the detective said it was also an attempted kidnapping. We need to be alert and if anyone saw or heard anything, I can connect you to the detective.”

I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. I felt panicked. What can I do? What would I do if that happened to me? Why would someone do that? Why is these things happen?

I’ve had moments like this many, many times in life, although they’re not typically as dramatic as this one. It’s a moment when I have to decide all over again what I’m actually doing here. As in, what I am actually trying to accomplish with my life? These moments come with experiences of loss, grief, disappointment, frustration, anger, disillusionment. I feel powerless and out of control. I want to fix the unfixable.

Do you ever feel that way?

But often, in moments like this, our community, our people rise up and rally around us. People show up. People don’t know what to do to fix it, but they say to us, “I am here. I want to help. What can I do?” Even if there’s nothing to be done, even if there’s nothing they can fix, they still show up with casseroles, a cup of tea, boxes of tissue, a Netflix movie, an idea, a bottle of wine, chocolate, surveillance cameras, police patrols, the alderman, a prayer.

I believe in the power of community, not because it fixes the problem but because a community rides it out together. A community says, “I will see you through this.”

There is a building in my neighborhood that had likely been a thriving business long ago but has been abandoned for years. This building was the site of a young man’s death recently. Last summer, the community got together to decide what to do about this building. The majority voted to tear it down and last week, the crew got to work on the demolition.

The crew is still working to clear away the debris and I like to drive by and check on the progress of the project. In the near future, our community will be able to give input about how to use the land. A park? A garden? A green space? Perhaps allow a new developer to use the land for business? We will likely disagree on the best use of this space. There may be heated debates over the next steps. Each of us will likely push hard to get our idea chosen as the winner. There will be other ideas that aren’t chosen and people who don’t feel like they got a chance to give their ideas.

Community is hard too, isn’t it? We don’t always agree with each other. We feel disappointment and discouragement in our relationships with each other. We hurt each other.

This is what Glennon Doyle Melton means when she says, “Life is brutal. But it’s also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful are  woven together so tightly that they can’t be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty.”

Community is a beautiful thing. It’s a brutal thing. It’s brutiful. But it’s ours. It’s not perfect or lovely always right at the end of the day, but it’s ours and we’re going to take care of it and we’re going to love it.

Here’s the nugget of community: it belongs to all of us. All of us participate and something new will rise out of the debris that not a single one of us would have arrived at alone. It will have the fingerprints of the community on it. It’s ours. We will own this.

Experiencing profound loss or disappointment can be unbearable if we have to shoulder it alone.

Community provides us with a chance to belong to each other. You belong. I belong. And that beautiful belonging is the most compelling reason we have for sticking together through brutiful times.


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