I was out with my community one night for an event; an older woman came up to me and asked, “Are you, volunteers?” I said yes and she asked a question I wasn’t prepared for: “What experiences have changed you so far?” I was initially taken aback because people who I’ve known for a grand total of ten seconds don’t usually come out of the gate with such hard-hitting questions. I didn’t really know what to say at first; my answer was that there hasn’t been a particular event that changed me but I have changed over time. What has changed me? Learning to live with others in a more intentional way, aka community.
I used to think “community” was an overused word. I suppose I still do since many people use it to simply describe a group of people. But I have learned that a community is not simply people living together, or a group of people, it is a way of interacting and building relationships with others. I came into this year as a very introverted person. It’s never been easy for me to get to know people or deepen connections. I didn’t want this year to be another year of social frustrations so I knew I had to change. Through community, I realized that I was approaching relationships in a very self-centered way. I was thinking about what others could do for me rather than what I could do for them.
I’ve learned living in a community is about the giving of one’s self to others and when I do that others give more of themselves. When I opened up to others, others would be more open with me, when I asked people questions and listened to what they had to say, they listened to me when I spoke. This does not make the community a transactional relationship. Community is a mutual deepening of a bond by giving one’s self for the other. I have learned when we give for the sake of another, that is when the connection between me and the other person deepens. When we act out of love for another’s sake we are truly loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Philadelphia, PA 2021-2022