We adults really suck at community.
Sorry if that’s a pessimistic statement.
Here, let me phrase it differently: We adults have major room for improvement when it comes to community.
No, I’m not secretly harboring resentment over anyone in particular. I’m simply observing that many of us, including myself, are forgetting how to do real relationships.
I’m a bit nostalgic for the days of weekend hangs and lazy get-togethers.
Of birthday parties. Of jumping in the pool, fully clothed. Of road trips and blasting the radio. Of marshmallows and star-gazing.
Maybe we were super social as children and teenagers, but the moment we enter adulthood, it’s like we don’t think we need friends anymore.
We’d rather be busy. We’d rather look important.
We’ve reduced people to their profiles.
We think being a friend is the same as “adding” a friend.
We really have no clue what we’re doing when it comes to relationships, community, and good old fashioned friendship.
And it isn’t doing us any favors. We’re a lonely and depressed generation.
We’re heavily medicated. We fill our emptiness with stuff. With busyness.
But busyness doesn’t give us meaning. It gives us stress and anxiety.
We long to feel connected to something greater than ourselves.
We “like” photos.
We click “interested” in events.
But we, as a generation (at least here in the US), have the hardest time just showing up.
And it’s funny because I believe that at our core, we’re all made for community.
We need people and they need us.
At some point, we all get too busy, too stressed, too over-committed.
And the first thing that suffers is our relationships.
One of the main things people ask when I tell them we homeschool is “what about socialization?”
When in reality, kids are great at socializing. They love people and make friends everywhere they go.
It’s adults who need help getting socialized between their phone screens, Netflix binges, long commutes, and being “busy.”
Yet no one is concerned about the socialization of adults.
We either don’t realize it’s missing from our lives, or we’re really, really lonely.
It’s so easy to take community for granted when we’re kids, teens, or college-age.
Maybe we grew up in a strong church community but looked around one day as an adult and realized we no longer had that foundation.
Suddenly, we’re all alone.
It happens quite by accident, without real conscious effort on our part.
Maybe we grew up surrounded by friends in school, and playing together on the weekends.
Maybe we were on a sports team in high school, and other extra-curricular activities – each with their own built-in community.
Maybe we lived with friends in college dorms – and we took those late-night conversations for granted because we were so stressed out with studying. In fact, maybe we longed for some privacy and quiet, since we’d never yet lived alone.
But then, at some point, maybe after college, we got our own place or settled down with a spouse.
We did the “mature” “adult” “responsible” thing – and isolated ourselves in the process.
It’s been proven that frequent, unplanned interactions lead to greater happiness. Just seeing someone in passing and smiling can make them feel more connected and part of a community.
So why do we adults isolate ourselves so much?
Why don’t we greet our neighbors?
Why don’t we host more potlucks and game nights?
Why do we have to always have a reason to get together?
Why do we only call some friends when we need something?
Why do we RSVP for events and then fail to show up?
Why, when we do get together, are we distracted by our phones the whole time?
I wonder: is “Netflix and chill” slowly becoming more appealing than community?
I sure hope not.
Have we forgotten how to do face-to-face?
Have we tried to cram community into our phones, where we can turn it on and off and control it ourselves?
Are we spoiled because we can’t block and rearrange and edit and unfriend in real life?
Are real people just too messy for us?
You can streamline a lot of things in order to make them more efficient. These days we have Amazon, Hello Fresh, Starbucks drive thru’s, and Instacart to make our lives easier.
But relationships will never fit into that box.
We need to stop trying to “do” relationships and simply “have” relationships.
We need to be willing to “waste” time with people – and see it as time well-spent.
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
I’m not good at community either.
I need just as much help as anyone.
I don’t write because I’m an expert. I share this because I have a deep longing for community and connectedness in my life.
I long for my gifts to help others and for others to come along and help me where I’m weak.
I long for a sense of deep belonging and mutual encouragement – because we’re more than just friends; we’re fellow sojourners on life’s journey.
I want to go deeper, not just wider. To invest and be vulnerable.
I want to throw a party for no reason and other adults show up because they know it will be a good and life-giving time.
And because maybe they are trying to figure out this whole community thing too.
I don’t want to take those kinds of relationships for granted ever again.
I believe we were created for community.
What does this look like?
I’m not sure.
How do we keep from getting hurt?
Maybe we don’t.
Us adults have a lot to learn. Maybe together, let’s re-learn how to do community.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Photography by Jed Villejo