I love making New Year’s resolutions but the minimalist in me also loves simplicity. For 2018, I decided to go with a single word to focus on for the year….
First, a little backstory.
The previous year was much harder than I ever anticipated. The first half was physically hard. We bought, gutted, and remodeled a little house in a few short months and then had to tackle the land. The second half of the year was emotionally hard. I was devastated at the unexpected loss of a dear and steady friendship while we were also working to establish new connections and relationships in our new town. Let me tell you, relationship building can be challenging work. For an introvert, like me, it’s downright difficult.
Living through all of that got me thinking, what does true community look like?
One thing I quickly noticed about “farm life” was the different pace of life. Within a few short weeks of being here, we knew all of our neighbors and we visited with each other often. We had previously lived in a subdivision of 400+ homes for 10 years but I can maybe tell you the names of 5 families. I was mind boggled that we could live in farther proximity from neighbors but have closer relationships. One of the reasons we left the subdivision life was because of all the divisiveness and tattle-telling. In a world where everyone seemed to be out to get each other, I now saw the potential for something different. I wanted to see people be neighborly to each other. True neighbors. The kind that are real and help each other.
So I made up my mind and declared COMMUNITY as my word for 2018. I even made it the screensaver on my phone so that it’s the first word I see every day.
Instead of just going about our business, we became intentional. For example, we learned the names of all of our delivery drivers and my daughter even knows who’s working at Dollar General on any given day based on the cars in the parking lot. We started attending a new church and we said “yes” to every opportunity for a solid 6 months in an effort to connect with new families. I invited friends out for coffee dates. We asked people over for dinner. I started a book club in my home. My goal was to help facilitate connections. When we held our annual summer solstice party, it was so fun to welcome all of the new people we had formed relationships with and mix them among our tried and true friends and neighbors.
All was going according to plan and then everything derailed in July. My mom was unexpectantly diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer secondary to pulmonary fibrosis and given 3 months to live. I packed up pronto and moved to Birmingham. What happened next was amazing. I ended up living my word of the year except on the recipient side.
For the next 6 months, I saw “community” first hand. I watched my mom’s friends and family show up. They brought meal after meal after meal. FYI – food is a love language in the South. They came to visit. They brought gifts for mom. They brought gifts for my daughter. They sent cards. They prayed with us and for us. They cut the grass. They brought farm eggs, and fresh veggies, and loaned me cream cheese when I ran out. If we ever had a need, I simply had to ask or sometimes barely mention it and someone was willing.
While I was helping hold down the fort in Birmingham, I still had responsibilities and things that needed to be done at work and at home in Nashville. And so my village of people showed up too. They took my clients, cleaned my house, fed my husband, and kept my daughter. There are a whole slew of people who hold a special place in my heart for their help with Skylar. Not only did they provide a safe place for her to stay while Mike was working, they made sure she had an awesome time and sent me pictures too. I can’t tell you how good that was for my mama heart. They texted and called and asked how I was and how they could help.
This is the community I so desired but it was my plan to help create it for others. How ironic the Lord saw fit for me to experience it instead. It gave me great perspective on what it means to just “show up” for someone. Some of the tiniest things have been so meaningful.
Here are 5 quick takeaways that I’ve learned this past year about being open to community.
1 | Put yourself out there.
Making friends as an adult is so much harder than on the playground in Kindergarten. But finding people you connect with and can live life with is so rewarding. Do the hard work of letting yourself be a teensy bit vulnerable and open to new relationships. You could be one conversation away from an awesome friendship.
2 | Ask for help.
This seems like a no-brainer but, boy, it’s hard. Just do it. Sometimes people don’t know how to help but they really want to. It’s okay to be specific but you also might have to be flexible too.
3 | Be available.
As a type A, I love a good plan and a checklist but I can’t tell you how many times my day hasn’t gone according to plan in 2018. My home is open to anyone who wants to stop by, even for a surprise visit. But those spontaneous visits have ended up being the highlight of my day. Conversely, you also have to be available so that if you see a need you can fill it. Or make the time if needed. It’s so fun to be a blessing to someone.
4 | Show up.
I feel like this needs a blog post all on it’s own but Google has tons of ideas too. There are literally hundreds of ways to show kindness, compassion, or love to someone. Find a way to show up for them. If they have a specific need and you can help, don’t think, just do it!
5 | Don’t judge. Help First.
Life is plain hard sometimes. We can’t always understand why people make certain choices or do things a particular way. In order to have true community, it’s important to embrace even those who aren’t like us or do things differently than us. I want to live in a world where people seek to understand and help each other rather than report or talk about each other. My motto is always to help first. In doing so, you may gain some perspective about their life or situation that wasn’t visible from the outside looking in.
I’m already pondering what my word will be for next year but my year of community has been both challenging and rewarding indeed!