Community. It is a word and a concept we hear everywhere. From church, school, the gym, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Google Plus, our workplaces, and yes, our neighborhoods (the original community), we are invited to engage. We have come to understand the many benefits of community. Healthy peer pressure, inspiration, and encouragement can be found there.
If surrounded by those less gifted than us, we can become leaders, teachers.
When working alongside our equals, we engage in (hopefully healthy) competition.
Next to those wiser than ourselves, fire can be ignited, bringing us beyond the places we can reach alone. I hold the belief that community is a natural, necessary element in my life, and I treasure it. Yet I have one thought that gives me pause.
Recently I reconnected with a friend I was in community with for three years. Having recently relocated, this friend was starting over fresh, without the people who had walked through the fire with him. In less than three months, he had completely changed. His new community was of very different mold, and he morphed to it without question. Without specifying the exact circumstances, just imagine we had been a part of a weight loss group and he had lost 150 pounds. He is now back eating super-sized big macs with fries and a coke, and he dropped his membership to the gym. Imagine my dismay. Community had taken him so far, it seemed. Community had challenged and loved him through pain and trial. But who he was inside remained the same. He worked hard when we could see, and his work produced fruit, but he had been secretly sneaking twinkies. Once away from caring people, he could do whatever he wished without the guilt and inspiration of community. The very pressure that kept him inspired and growing, when removed, seemed to sway him the opposite direction.
One of my favorite quotes since childhood is "Character is who you are in the dark." This kept twelve-year-old me walking my bike on the crosswalk and hand signaling my turns, even when no one was there. It makes grown-up me return my shopping cart whether anyone is looking or not. I love my church, neighbors, and friends, and there is plenty I do that is fueled by them. But if that is the depth of my motive, I walk a fine line. I want to be the same in the dark as I am in the light of my community. If there was no Facebook group to post to, would I still play the Minimalism Game? If no one reads this blog, will I still write with care and passion?
Who are you in the dark? Who do you want to be?
Have Peace, & Purge On.