I love being around people and sharing life with them. That was honestly one of my favorite aspects of being in college--I lived in a townhouse with two of my best friends, and we had people over multiple times a week. We even left our doors unlocked so that friends could feel free to come and go. This reminds me of a conversation I had this past summer. I was at a friend's house for a barbecue and hangout with a bunch of people with whom I had gone to Honduras a few weeks prior. We sat outside in lawn chairs, sipped drinks out of sweating cups, and nervously patted ourselves from time to time to ward off the mosquitos stalking us.
College came up as we talked--how we all missed college mostly because of community. And here we were, in our late twenties and thirties, with our full-time jobs, in some cases with our kids, and spread out all over the Philadelphia area, reminiscing as we enjoyed one of the few rare opportunities to gather with a bunch of friends, refreshingly lacking in agenda or business. One of my friends said something I still remember. As we lamented the ease with which we found community in college, he explained, "We're married with two kids. And that can be crazy, but can still be lonely. But we choose to be with people every night of the week."
That stuck with me. Despite our adult excuses--the nine-to-five job, the kids, the errands, the responsibilities, and on and on--community is ultimately a choice.
Our circumstances don't have to hold us back from community in the same way that they don't guarantee community. You can be married and still be alone. You can have roommates and still be alone. You can fill your day with meetings and get-togethers and rub shoulders with people from dawn to dusk and still be alone.
Community is stopping to enjoy someone's presence. Community is carving out even the smallest amount of time to genuinely connect with someone. Community is breaking bread together, not because you need to eat to survive but because there's something about a meal that can create intimacy with people. Community is knowing what's going on with someone besides work or school. Community is smiling, laughing, crying, venting, praying together.
And we can choose to do any of that, all of that, or none of that. Even after college, with a job, or with kids. I've discovered just how many opportunities for community I've missed right in front of me while being too busy lamenting the loss of my college community.
I choose to have community now. It may be different than ones I've cherished in the past, but it's no less rich, no less fulfilling, and no less necessary.