Photo by Bill Coleman
We aren’t meant to live life on our own.
Americans value an independent spirit: “I’ve got this, I can, I’m enough.” While a degree of independence is healthy, we need each other. A man can’t be an island and be fulfilled.
Admitting we can’t do it all, or don’t have it all together, is difficult! Being real, going beyond the trite “Oh, I’m good!”, is hard. We hide our struggles because vulnerability feels scary. Being part of a community isn’t always easy.
What Is Community?
Community is more than just people living in the same geographical area. It’s more than the times past when people lived in the same town all their life, and everyone knew everything about each other.
More than a physical boundary, we enter into an emotional and even a spiritual connection with others.
Community is about bearing one another’s burdens.
Caring for people for more than what they can give us. Wanting to enrich others’ lives through service.
This community mentality is one trait people admire so greatly about the Amish. The “we’re-in-this-together” attitude. Lending a helping hand is a fundamental aspect of Amish life.
An Amish family outgrows a farm building. The whole community comes together to build a new barn, giving their time and sweat to help a friend complete a gigantic project. Work frolics to pour concrete or dig footers, among other building projects, are also common.
Amish women come together for a quilting. An unmarried girl helps with the housework and the older children while the new mother recuperates from childbirth. Older women assist mothers in sewing the homemade clothing for their numerous children.
The Amish unite in catastrophic situations. Insurance is not allowed in many Amish communities. If a house or a barn burns down, or an extended hospital stay is necessary, the community comes together to rebuild and share the cost.
But I don’t want to put the Amish on too high of a pedestal. Even though they do so much to help each other, they also struggle with gossip and fighting.
Just as it goes on amidst all us “normal” folks. It’s human nature. People are people, whether they’re Amish or not. Community can be as messy as it is beautiful.
In the midst of their common humanity, the Amish still have something remarkable going. Barn raisings and work frolics and quiltings are more than a great photo opportunity for the English.
These gatherings are a physical demonstration of the spiritual beauty of taking care of one another. Seeing a need and meeting it. Seeing a burden and helping to carry it. Choosing to lay down “my” schedule and “my” priorities to put someone else first.
How To Do Community
I’ve seen this so many times among the former Amish. They were raised with this belief in physically being there for others.
Many former Amish don’t have their family closely involved in their life since leaving. All the other ex-Amish realize this and step in to help fill the gap.
They’re ready to do life together. To celebrate the mountaintops of life. To not allow anyone walk alone through the valleys.
Someone leaves the Amish, especially a young woman. They are alone, without a support system or the ability to provide for themselves. Many times a complete stranger invites them into their home and aids them in becoming self-sufficient.
Someone needs a new roof like our family did several years ago. We called some friends and a dozen men showed up and reroofed our house in one day.
Someone has a baby. Meals are brought and the excitement is shared.
Someone is sick. People don’t just send a card. They bring a meal. Watch the kids for a day. Start a fund and contribute even when they don’t have much themselves. Fill the hospital waiting room with friends, offering love through their presence.
Someone dies. The loved ones are left behind, but they aren’t alone. People call, write cards and drop by to visit and brighten the long days.
I have learned so much from this precious group of people about what it means to live in community.
Not everyone has community built into their life like the Amish or former Amish. Finding that special group of people who will go through life with us can be difficult.
Like many of the best things in life, it can begin with us.
Seeing someone lonely and getting together for coffee. Bringing a meal to the mom with the new baby. Calling the friend with whom you’ve lost touch. Seeing that exhausted parent at soccer practice and offering an encouraging word. Sending the sick co-worker a card. Visiting your elderly relative in the nursing home. Inviting the new family at church over for snacks and a game. Mailing a gas or grocery gift card to a friend out of work.
The list is absolutely endless. So many ways exist to create community in our life. We can’t force other people to get involved, but we can reach out.
If we make that effort, something beautiful will come. The principle is true that whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
In doing good for each other, we build a community that goes beyond physical borders, even beyond a community of common culture, like the Amish.
Community is anywhere a helping hand is offered in love. Few things are as blessed as sharing our life- the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly- with true friends.
Have you experienced true community? Please share in the comments below.