Brittany from the The Nested Nomad blog wrote an excellent article for Relevant Magazine about the difficulty of building community during her current stage of life. Any of us who have been on that chapter of our stories; newly married, becoming parents, working at building a career, perhaps relocating, can identify with this well thought out article. She offers some excellent tips for her readers to consider.
I couldn’t help but want to expand on that as to why building community as you begin your family really matters so much to me.
Let me offer a little perspective. I am from a big family and married into a big family. Many of my friends were/are from high school and college, with some from childhood. I have a big and easily accessible community at the ready. It never occurred to me that I would have to actually try to build my own or that the gift given to me was to be built for others. Then I moved away. Sure, I had some friends where I moved to, I was thirty or so and newly married and about to have a baby. But building community had never been my job. I was plopped in the midst of community so my phone rang all of the time. People would visit from out of town and, if anything, it was difficult for me to have time to myself, so I would focus on building in time to myself. I never pursued a community where we lived. I had friends at work, but I never fully connected to a church or mom group and by now my daughter was born. I wasn’t miserable per se, but I could have used a community. Brittany reminds us, “Jesus calls us to be generous with our time,” and that doesn’t mean just with family. “If you welcome only your friends, what is remarkable in that?” Mt 5:47. But I was lazy, and that is what matters.
Then we moved back to my hometown and my happy little comfort zone.
As my kids multiplied and grew we moved again, just to a suburb close by. But it is a place of mini-communities. We established at our parish (which remained in the city) and started to really engage there. I sent the kids to pre-school where I visited an office run by the diocese and where I made a couple of wonderful friends. Through conversations about faith, God and life, I began to accept I was being called to something more. Through a friend I became more a part of the school community, I built many friendships and during times of joy or crisis, we have sustained one another. The thing with all of these little opportunities of community is that is opens up my eyes to where God is working in my life. God is working everywhere and in so many people. But it offers more than that because with God, there is always more. It is a witness to my children. That, I am finding, is the real gift.
My daughter’s graduation party was a mix of those people. People who were at her baby shower, at her baptism, first communion and at her birthdays. People who prayed for her in the early, terrifying days of her life, and who continue to pray for her as she embarks on the next part of her journey. People who watched her grow and assisted in her faith life. This is the gift of a community. She senses the something bigger…something beyond her aspect of this through this love.
Our babes cannot be embraced just by us, (though I am a selfish beast by nature and wish they could) and all relationships should not be superficial, “serve me now” relationships. Building community means building relationships. It is a primer for our children who witness what that means. It can be difficult to manage when children don’t get along or when one part of the community is being neglected. But it all matters as they learn to navigate their own futures. It also matters in the context of society as they start to understand their place in it.
Brittany is ahead of the pack with her understanding of not being able to do it on her own. When she mentions a trip to Target, I think of my best friend and I stealing time for groceries and couponing. Some of our favorite memories. This same friend sustains me…and always has. What a gift to look back so many years and see the same beautiful hearts shining out of the same beautiful faces.