For students of an independent-heavy mentality, community is superfluous. It’s extra, it’s garnish. It’s considered strength to stand solitary, to be your own well-oiled machine. To need others in order to progress, to change, to grow is a crutch, at least in our culture.
But what if that need is rudimentary? What if other people are foundational to being who we are?
Without realizing it, those questions stapled themselves to my experience moving to Toronto last year. For the first six months, I cast myself as the cliche newbie huffing about town in a TORONTO SUCKS t-shirt. I thought it was part of the rule book of participation in this city to just run 100 miles/hour with your head down. This was the way, the method for survival. I resented it, thus the choice of T-shirt, but kind of accepted it at the same time. I ignored the questions of what was foundational and rudimentary and asked instead, “How much can I make?” and “How far can I go?”
They weren’t invalid questions, but something else started stirring. Slowly, one by one, people started dripping in. Their presence little droplets that splashed on my back as though from a leaky roof while I was leaning into the dirt, working. This constant dripping was starting to disturb my toil. After awhile, I could ignore a few, even several, but not when drop after drop after drop seemed to come from an endless place, a perpetual knocking.
When I paused to arch my neck up from my isolated state, the drops fell instead on my lips.
It was nearly immediate how evident my thirst was. How depraved and parched my spirit felt after ignoring my very real need. For other people, for community.
See, we get into this cheetah mode with our rate of speed a gauge of our accomplishment. It’s a well-accepted productivity mode, results mode. These modes value indépendance. They value that bent over toil.
But we’re all thirsty.
Thirsty for community, true relationship with others, because it helps us make sense of our work, our place in life, our ambitions, our worries. Community gives us something to stand on and stand for, instead of standing alone. Community steadies us when we go underwater and celebrates with us when we find triumph. Community gives us something to stand on and stand for, instead of standing alone.
When we experience real bonds made in the kiln of life, we wonder how we could’ve ever thought it was extra. The camaraderie found in genuine connection with others is what sustains us in whatever speed we’re going.
Allowing myself to be surrounded by true community – strangers that became friends, friends that became family – has become the foundation of my life here. I haven’t felt shaky since.
– Dani Kreeft