I believe in the power of community. I believe in the importance of being part of something greater than oneself, greater than one’s immediate family, greater, even, than one’s self-interest. I believe in reaching out to the Other merely out of recognition of the fact that we are more similar than different.
As I have struggled to find a Jewish community that meets my needs, that wraps me in its loving embrace without stifling my fervent desire to make independent choices about my own life and religious observance, I have been continually amazed at the willingness that others have shown to give of themselves for the improvement and growth of a community so much larger than themselves. Giving of this kind comes in a variety of forms and shapes, but is always characterized by the love that accompanies it and the selflessness with which it is rendered. Even those who begin to give for self-motivated reasons find that their interest has waned far before the task is complete; the truly dedicated ones finish giving anyway because it is the right thing to do.
But the real lesson for me, the moment that I realized how fundamental is human the desire to live in community with others, was when my officemate, a devout Christian, packed up to leave our shared office early one Tuesday afternoon. Where was she going? To visit a sick woman from her church. And when I asked whether she was close to this woman she shrugged and said no, not particularly–but visiting her was the right thing to do, and this woman’s children had visited her own father when he had been sick. In the middle of packing her bag to leave the office she stopped, looked at me, and shrugged. “I want to be part of a community where people visit because they visit,” she said to me. “So I’m going.”
Her simple formulation, and her simple dedication to the underlying truth of the nature of community, elucidated so much of my own struggle to find a community where I feel like I belong. Much of the struggle is entirely off-point; what matters is not so much the ideological outlook of any group of people, but rather how they treat each other and how they honor one another, person to person. But more essentially, my officemate realized the basic truth about living in community–faith community or not–with others. It is up to each of us to create the kind of community we want to be part of, and simply by creating the space in which we want to live, we make that experience a reality for others.
If only it were always so simple to make your dreams a reality. And if only we all realized just how much power we have in this particular area.
Your cart is currently empty.