If you were to ask friends of mine what some of my favorite things to talk about are, I’m pretty sure that community would be one of them. Community is one of my favorite concepts. It is something that is not only meaningful to me, but that I am passionate about. When I look at the world around me, I wonder what could be the solutions to these distressing circumstances; I think community might be one of them.
My beliefs around community come from my spiritual practice. It actually is one of the pillars of my faith. One of Jesus’ main teachings I believe was around community, its importance, what it means and looks like, to understand that we are all a community, and that in loving, supporting, and taking care of each other we actually manifest God(dess)’s vision of the kin-dom on earth in the beloved community. This is also evident in other religions as well. Jesus was challenging the preconceived notions of who is our family, who are our neighbors. This is displayed in the way that Jesus interacted with people, in what Jesus taught, in the way that Jesus lived. Expanding care not only to our own but to others (consider the parable of the Good Samaritan), particularly in our current context where the emphasis is on the nuclear family being the main or only source of how we find and glean support, seems alternative. We have significantly limited ourselves in the ways that we can live more fulfilling, expansive lives without the support of a community to be present and journey alongside with us.
Community is about connecting with others in a way where there is investment and intention in the process of building relationships with each other. What if we did this more? What if we had a priority and deep value around creating and sustaining community? How differently would our world and society function? What challenges could be overcome, what ills would our world be healed from if we engaged in community? How would isolation, loneliness, stigmas, misunderstandings be diminished and compassion be manifested differently if we cultivated community and it was an integral part of our lives?
Community, if done well and in harmony with the positive aspects of it, can be powerful and radically life-giving. Enemies can even become allies through this endeavor. I believe that willingness to invest in a community is what makes a community, and seemingly disharmonious factors can develop positive outcomes. This mutual effort can make a big difference in how well a community will function and intentionality will determine its fruits towards the individuals that comprise it. Living intentionally and in community means vulnerability with each other and this invest of transparency can be greatly impactful. By creating safe spaces for folks to be themselves, we can encourage genuineness of self. I believe that change must have these components and come from such a place; it not only changes us, but it can in turn change the world.
Through my intentional community experience, I have learned much about other people and also about myself. I have appreciated the sharing of stories, backgrounds, and personalities. There have definitely been challenges but given the opportunity it has also been a safe space pursued, created, and valued by all to do the hard work of introspection and of genuine relating. I have been fortunate enough to have had wonderful communities in my life, from my friend community, to my faith communities, my learning community, to being a part of intentional communities. They have been what sustains me on this life journey and feel blessed when they are part of my life. I am not only who I am through of them, but it has allowed me to do better, reach higher, and dig deeper because of them.
As a year with another intentional community comes to a close, I reflect on the various factors and elements that have contributed to its success and its mishaps. I am grateful that I can live out my vocation of living in intentional community through this past service year and continue to learn what it means to be someone who comes alongside others as we individually grow and then extend that to create connections of support and care in ways that transforms us; may this continue to be the catalyst to a more loving and courageous humanity, where we are can fully embraced and fully known.
-Austin Corps Member