Last week I was updating my calendar with all the new, weekly commitments that will fill our evenings. It’s a bit of a puzzle with four kids, but I enjoy it. I like to have a picture in my head of the upcoming season, so writing everything down in neat little boxes makes me feel calm.
I’m sure you have been doing this kind of thing too. It’s the season for a restart with school, sports, dance, church groups, etc. These things are great, but one thing we must make room for in our schedules is community.
I remember a message one week at church about loneliness. Like most stay-at-home moms, I actually wanted a break from people. I wanted to take a shower without visitors. So, how could I be lonely? As I was processing these thoughts on my way out, I saw a friend emerge with puffy, red eyes. She’d obviously been crying. It’s hard to know how to handle that. When I’ve been crying, I almost never want someone to point it out. However, here we were leaving a message on loneliness so I thought it would be rude to ignore her.
I came up beside her. (I remember a talk I once heard about not approaching someone face to face when they’re upset. It makes them feel like they’re being attacked.) We walked a little. She could barely speak because she was clearly coming down from crying in a quiet place. You know where you’re trying not to wail? Finally, she whispered, “I thought I was being ungrateful, now I know I’m just lonely.”
We met for coffee later that week. We both had the same reaction to the sermon. It was relief really. Like when you think you’re really sick and you go to the doctor and find out it’s just some vitamin deficiency. Easily remedied with a simple supplement. We didn’t need counseling or medication for depression. We simply needed community.
If you’ve been following for this blog for a little while, you may be thinking, “Didn’t she already write something like this?” The answer is, yes. Many times. But if someone is reading this that really needs to hear it, I’m willing to write about it every single year.
Here’s why community matters:
It’s hard enough to fit everything into the schedule to begin with. But to schedule time with others? That feels indulgent. Unnecessary, really. But believe me, it’s not.
No matter what your day looks like, the people you spend it with will be glad if you’re a healthier you. There are a million metaphors for why you should make sure you take care of yourself in order to take care of others. You know them. You probably even agree with them. The hardest part is actually doing it.
Find your people:
I don’t know who you connect with, but don’t stop looking until you find them. Whether it’s book club, Bible Study, or bunco there are people out there who you connect with. If you feel the urge to say, “These are my people,”when you’re with them, make sure to put time with them in one of those neat little boxes. If you don’t know where to start, join something.
Think back to high school. You didn't make new friends walking up to a lunch table and saying, “Anyone want to be my friend?” You made did it while playing a sport or trying a new club. As adults, the same is true. Finding a group of people who are like minded is an easy way to make connections. (And I don’t mean a Facebook group. That can be fun, but that’s not real community.) You know those friends who know where your silverware drawer is? That’s the community you’re looking for.
Defend your time:
Back when I was a theatre director, I attended a monthly stamp club. A friend and I joined partly for the crafts we made, but mostly because we wanted a standing date together every month. When I ran rehearsals on these days, the kids would say, “You guys better be good because she has stamp club tonight and we can’t run over.” They were right. I had a monthly commitment that I put first. I’ve seen women in these groups before. They’ll attend as long as a whole list of things don’t come up. And I get it. Not everyone has a support system to step in when they want to do something for themselves. But they’re the people who need it the most.
Once you've joined something, do everything in your power to prioritize that time. Even if it means hiring a babysitter. Your family should treat it as my theatre kids treated my stamp club. You don't mess with it. It's good for you and it's good for the community you're a part of when you attend regularly.
It’s easy to take on the role of cruise director - making sure everyone gets to their things on time each week. And that’s noble. We've all been there. Just make sure to schedule an excursion or two for the cruise director as well. Trust me, the entire ship will thank you.