What Does Community Mean to You?
When my pastor, Reverend Adam Shourds, asked me to briefly share with our church what community meant to me, I had to give it some serious thought. Although I attend church regularly, I don’t have the opportunity to get to know many people beyond the friendly handshakes week in and week out. And like so many, I’ve given little thought to my support system and influence within the community. I just follow my routine and manage my schedule every day, hoping to get it all done. But now, I see things a little differently.
When my husband checked into the outpatient wing of our local hospital, we both had plans later that day. A simple procedure was a line on the schedule to cross out. But another set of plans was in the works.
After his return to the waiting area, his body reacted to the medication and procedure with symptoms that concerned the medical staff. A cardiologist consult followed. Despite the lack of a clear-cut explanation for his physical response, he was admitted to the hospital for rounds of tests. The result of each set of tests unfolded with greater levels of urgency. Soon it was clear that he was in dire need of open-heart surgery to avoid tragedy. Our shock and confusion had us reeling as we tried to make sense of the turn of events.
As I stood before our church a few weeks later, I felt an outpouring of love and gratitude for the community connection we felt during that time of uncertainty. I was there to share how vital engagement in a small group is, but I came to the conclusion that it is so much more than that.
I grew up in a small, country church surrounded by relatives. If we weren’t related, I wouldn’t have known the difference. We shared the same space three times every week for years on end. Interestingly, there were many times in the midst of that group, even in a confined space, I felt isolated and alone.
At other times, I clearly remember the same feelings bubbling up inside while filing into a large church crowded with pews and dozens of rows spread all around. Whether we prefer one type of social gathering over another, a constant fact remains. We all need community.
The message I shared with my church family is simple. I’ve attended small groups beyond weekly church service for a variety of reasons, but when life turned unexpectedly, I quickly learned that those relationships we’ve nurtured become like gold.
My small group gave us support, prayed for us, and checked in repeatedly. They helped, listened, and through it all, restored our need for that human connection. Other community connections through work, book club, and dear friends and family have shown their love for us too.
Most of all, finding a serious health problem before it was too late has been the greatest miracle and blessing I’ve had the pleasure of watching unfold in a long time.
The significance of putting yourself out there, engaging with others in the areas of life that matter most, is obvious now. Without those bonds that form over time, we have little support when needs arise. And they always do. Life is full of troubles as well as celebrations.
We are meant to be in community, and function best with strong social networks. It’s no surprise that research consistently reflects greater health and longevity for those with active social lives.
The times when I have felt most alone, have been more about my lack of effort and interest in making others a priority. Getting involved in a church, clubs, sports, or learning something new is a perfect way to build your source of protection for the storms of life. The best part is that you are simultaneously constructing ties with those who will need you at some point.
Giving out of my own need is often the very best course of action that lifts me out of the emotional ruts in life. I encourage you to seek out and maintain connections in your community for a healthier and happier life for years to come.