Recently, I received a very nice phone call from a friend wishing me a Happy Birthday a day or so early because she is the kind of person who not only thinks "I should do that..." but she also does it. She has never failed to be an encourager, positive about anything I'm trying to do, interested in what is going on in my life, and a true friend. She also reminded me that our group that met once a month for two years after our children graduated needs to get together. After the first one was planned, I became the unofficial instigator of such because I tend to be pretty good about keeping a calendar and it took a whopping five minutes a month to send out the reminder e-mails.
Then life started intervening and we had to cancel a couple of times. Our large group trickled down to just a few. More time passed. And then it was finally just a distant memory.
Now we just look back fondly on those lunches where we got to keep up with what was going on. Oh, we talk about it...but we don't plan it. And I - as the keeper of the e-mails - let down the community. Until last week...when I sent another one out. It has been nearly two years since we last went to lunch...but by gosh...we're going...even if it means I'm dining alone.
Except I won't be because a couple of them have already e-mailed that they are planning to be there. Yes!
I love the sense of community. Of feeling a part of something. Interacting with people.
Believe it or not, I score pretty much on the line between "introvert" and "extravert" on the Myers-Briggs tests. I love people, but don't particularly gain energy from being around folks. Facebook is really ideal for me because I can plug in when I want and can communicate in writing. It's why I prefer e-mail to the phone at work, and why I love sending and receiving cards and letters.
But sometimes, you just have to see people and enjoy their company.
Like yesterday...when I had lunch with a good friend who always cracks me up. She knows my heart, so I don't have to filter anything. I can be "tacky" and she knows I'm just venting. Or I can say what I really mean instead of cloaking it in such a manner that I don't come across as being kind and politically correct. I can filter things through her when I'm fired up and she'll tell me if I need to take it down a notch or pour it on. She's one of the first people I want to tell when something great happens or something that is so hideous that it will make her laugh at the sheer awfulness of it. Yes, misery loves company, but there are times when we are thrust into something that is so bad that it actually becomes hilarious. She gets that. So do I.
Community is something that some of us take for granted. Maybe our family is all of the community we need. Or simply rephrased...all we can stand. Perhaps we spend so much time at work that the people there become not only our co-workers...but our friends.
Church is an excellent place to plug into a community...be it a Sunday school class, a ladies group, or serving in a specific ministry.
It may be the gym that you find your community, or the internet, or your high school girlfriends. It could be people who share mutual interests (i.e. choir, community service, a running group, your sorority alumnae group) or because you live in close proximity.
What matters is that you are interacting with other people...because it is there that you find your mission field and your purpose for being here.
I know that there are times when I've felt on the outside of things. I don't get the inside jokes. I have no idea what happened to certain people I knew when I was young because - hey - it's been over 30 years since they crossed my mind. Sometimes I'm turned off by one person in the community who annoys me for some reason...or I do the same to them. That's life. And it is rarely enough to keep me from attempting to interact.
When we go through the busy years...which I loosely define as "when you have children living at home" - you'll find that you tend to gravitate toward other people in the same boat as you. Your friends become those who sit on the bleachers with you, are trying to put together a Pilgrim costume with no sewing skills whatsoever (just like you), or those that you sit and chat with at the dozens of birthday parties that seem to go on for years and years.
And then the kids graduate...and you might run into each other in the local Publix, on jury duty, or in passing. You might say, "let's do lunch soon..." or "I miss seeing you!" or even catch each other up as to which of your kids is doing what and how they are doing.
Then you walk away and that lunch date never happens...and you don't cross each other's mind until your next chance meeting. Rinse and repeat.
I think that most of us have people in our lives that we know were just there for a season. To raise the children together or to learn a new skill set. To be there for each other at a critical juncture and then to kind of ebb away and flow toward another community as you grow and change.
Yet, there is a lot of value in keeping those old ties. There is equally a lot of value in being open enough to create new ones.
When you are going through something difficult in life, it makes all of the difference in the world as to whether you have what is deemed a "support network." What that really means is "a community of people who can stand in the gap with you." If you are experiencing joy...like my friend who has a daughter getting married this week...it is that much more wonderful to share it with others.
The older we get, the more open we have to be to some "off-the-wall" communities if we're going to really enjoy life. Some people decide to isolate themselves, others find it impossible to muster up the enthusiasm or the time to interact with others, and yet others are so let down by the path that their lives are on that they are a bit trying to be around. As for me, I'm going to enjoy seeing who God brings into my life. Those to which I can minister and those from which I can learn. I want to be open to having friends from all walks of life.
Because it's fun.
So, go out there today into your communities and just breathe life into those forgotten friendships, and be the friend you would like to have. Support people without reservation, or hesitation, or conditions. Just love those in your path. Quit looking for the perfect "friend group" and instead be the person everyone wants to bring into their circle of friends.
Get up tomorrow...and do it all over again.
Thank you to all of you who read this and support what I write. Who stop me and tell me that they enjoy reading my thoughts. Those who call me and wish me a "Happy Birthday!" or who want to share something funny in their day. Those who invite me to do things I might not think to do on my own. Those who push me to be better, to stay on the right path, and to be a better version of myself. Those who love me in spite of the fact that I'm not perfect...because they don't care. Those who are generous with their time, resources, spirit, love, and affection for my family and for me.
Love you. Mean it.
Have a great day and reconnect. You won't be sorry.