Last week, I was reminded of the joys of being in community with others. The occasion was a two-day workshop I took on stage transitions in adult development. Twenty participants gathered with two facilitators, who guided us through understanding certain developmental transitions that we as humans can make as we go through life. We learned a lot about the phases one typically goes through in moving from one developmental stage to the next. And, we discussed pitfalls and diversions to be aware of in our journey. The conversations were thoughtful, candid and revealing. It was a privilege to have a glimpse into others’ minds and hearts; both those who have experienced things I have not, and those that are wrestling with things I am familiar with from my own life.
What I noticed was the polarity of comfort and challenge I felt as we worked together to unpack stage transitions. There was an ease in being with those who shared common experiences, questions, and even confusion. Although I only knew a few of the folks who attended the workshop, I felt a kinship in being fellow travelers on the road of adult development. There was a great deal of respect for each person, and a tacit acknowledgement of the strength that differences bring to a group. Our facilitators challenged us to think in new ways about our assumptions and how we see ourselves and the world. Conversations with my classmates also challenged me, as they shared their own experiences and the impact a stage transition had on their lives. Yet I felt supported and was never judged or compared to anyone else. By the end of our two days together, the sense of connection, fellowship, service and love permeated the entire group. We felt that we were part of a community.
As an introvert and avowed non-groupie, I am not someone who usually seeks out groups to hang with. However, I do long to be with others who share some of my values, who can see me as I truly am (the good and the bad), and who can both challenge and comfort me. When I think of community in that sense, I am grateful for those that I do feel a part of. Some of the hallmarks that attract me to certain communities are the opportunity to serve; being able to give (and receive) love; engaging with others in meaningful conversations; diversity of thinking; doing work that matters; respect for differences; learning about others and myself; and a spiritual component. Of course, not all of these are found in every community. What attracts you to a community? Where do you find communities that meet those longings? How has being part of a community impacted you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Sharon Keys Seal