“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.” – George Bernard Shaw
Last night was a perfect evening for running and our local running club took full advantage of it.
Once a week in the summertime, 50 of us (more or less) meet at a member’s house, select a run from several distance options, run or walk our selection, then gather at the host’s house for snacks, dinner, beverages, and camaraderie.
The hosts provide all the food and drinks, which I love. Under this system, I don’t have to consider what to make and bring along to the party each Tuesday. I collaborate with several other members to host once a summer, then every other week, I am simply a guest.
This week the temperature and humidity were low, the sun was out, and there was a light breeze blowing. Bill and I decided to do a longer run than our usual, so we arrived early and did the three-mile option first, then the 6.5-mile option as a bonus.
Our host even made arrangements with her Amish neighbors so that we had permission to run about a mile and a half of our course on farm lanes. These goats (or “gopes” as our grandson Henry used to call them) seemed unconcerned as dozens of runners invaded their farm.
As we gathered for fun and conversation after the run, Bill and I talked to some new members of the club. I was struck by the many different personalities who make up our group.
There are introverts and extroverts among us, experts and novices, conservatives and liberals. When picturing a runner, you may think of someone young, fast, and thin, but people of all ages, body types, and paces were represented in our crowd.
Our gathering made me think of “we“, a community.
When I first joined our running club, over a decade ago, I had few running friends. I often ran with a partner, but her interest in running was waning and she eventually stopped running altogether. My hubby ran a little bit, but he usually biked while I ran. I wanted to find some like-minded people for inspiration and encouragement.
Women in the running club were generous with their time, affection, and advice. It didn’t matter that I didn’t really understand at that point how to give back. They were patient with me and enveloped me into their group. They looked beyond my rough edges and went out of their way to make me feel accepted. I’ll never forget it.
I learned to listen when I wanted to be listened to, to give validation when I wanted to be validated, and to give others assistance when I wanted to be helped.
I think that’s why community is so important. We all feel lonely at times; we all need encouragement, welcome, and a sense of belonging. We need to be able to develop relationships. All of us need to feel loved.
There are communities of bloggers where I feel welcomed and listened to, and I am grateful for the relationships I have developed with those communities over the year and a half I have been blogging.
I am especially lucky because of the eclectic nature of my blog. I feel at home in the community of fitness bloggers, faith bloggers, and other writers who post on an array of topics as I do.
In this age of “networking“, developing community becomes especially important. When we network, there is the unspoken assumption that we will receive something tangible in return from the relationships we build. A “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” mentality emerges. What can you do for me?
Building communities is all about giving of ourselves with no implicit deal in return. Communities encourage service, generosity, and cooperation. What can I do for you?
Once we build communities, the concept of our interconnectedness becomes evident and real. We are each connected to the world and to each other in ways we understand with our hearts far better than we intuit with our minds.
Yes, you and I and your neighbor (even the crazy one who keeps a Komodo dragon for a pet) and David Hasselhoff and Jacinda Ardern (extra credit if you knew she is Prime Minister of New Zealand), we are all connected; we are all human.
Feeling connected is one of the basic ingredients we need to thrive. When we don’t have connectedness, we hurt.
Our sense of connection is internal. It doesn’t depend on how many followers we have on Twitter, or friends we have on Facebook. It depends on how we feel inside. We can work to develop it.
When we have a positive attitude, when we show empathy, when we are truly present in our conversations, and when we care about the needs of others, we are developing our sense of connection.
Each of us has our own discrete strengths and gifts, but together as a community, we are stronger than we are individually. Our connections are what make us resilient.
The Apostle Paul said it in Romans: ” For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
I am linking with Fairytales and Fitness for Friday 5, Raisie Bay for Word of the Week, Amy at Live Life Well, Susan B Mead for Dancing With Jesus, Embracing the Unexpected for Grace and Truth, Counting My Blessings for Faith ‘n Friends, and Morgan’s Milieu for Post, Comment, Love.