The word community has been pressed harder and harder on my heart for about two years now.
People often talk about how hard it is to find friends after college. That wasn’t the case for me. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and returned to Chicago post-graduation. Through work and through circumstance, I was thrown into several communities. Then I sought out many more.
There was my cohort in the Leadership Development Program at work. Church small groups. Rekindled relationships from high school and new iterations of college friendships. Volunteer groups. An engagement. Partnerships. I was part of a diverse group of communities, but I never quite felt like I belonged.
Lately, it’s been quite the opposite. I stand in awe of my community no less than twice a week. They are creative and intelligent and thoughtful and kind. They make me laugh until I cry. They’re the people I call with my best and worst and most embarrassing news. They are building incredible businesses and lives. And I cannot believe that I get to be in relationship with them.
As I reflect on where I was as a recent graduate who cast a wide but shallow net when it comes to communities and where I am now as a woman who is rooted in relationships, I can see the shifts that turned my relationships around.
We were made for relationships that extend beyond screens and small talk.
It’s my hope that these truths will help you to build and grow communities of your own.
Invest your time
You need to spend time with people to feel like you’re a part of a community. It sounds simple, but it’s more nuanced than I originally thought. It’s easy to say that quick hello in passing or to think that the fact that you know what they did last weekend because you saw their Instagram post is equivalent to being in community with someone.
Hold yourself accountable to spending time with your people. That may mean that you need to set a standing coffee date or join a group. Set those structures if you need them so that you can show up and be in relationship with your community.
Be in a relationship
We often reserve the steadfast and involved work of truly getting to know someone for romantic relationships. I found that my community became more meaningful when I started investing in it like it mattered.
I’ve spent nights curled up on friends’ couches talking about our dreams and our failures. We talk about love languages and Enneagram types and personal preferences. Then we use that newfound knowledge to love each other better. Brotherly and sisterly love is just as important as the love that fuels romantic partnerships, and we need to treat it that way.
Being in community requires you to constantly dig deeper. Sometimes you need to ask that awkward follow up question even when you want to change the subject. Other times you need to physically be with your people as they navigate a tough situation.
I had to take a break from writing this piece because a dear friend who I was supposed to meet up with later in the evening told me that she needed to cancel our plans. Her dog was sick, and she was trying to figure out how to the emergency vet. This friend doesn’t have a car. Minutes later, I was on my way to her apartment. She didn’t ask for my help, but I showed up. Communities show up for each other, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I still fall short as a friend and colleague, but I am committed to pursuing deep-rooted community in every aspect of my life. I am better when I am in meaningful relationships with others. We all are.
– Photo credit: Hannah Busing