It’s been 10 years since I chose to leave a small nonprofit and accept a position with a much larger community. For several years, I’d heard heartwarming stories of what was described as a family atmosphere, and I looked forward to building new friendships, collaborating, and moving forward together in positive, meaningful work.
We thrive and live our best lives when doing so in the midst of a loving, healthy community.
I wish I could say my first weeks and months were all I’d dreamed they’d be, but the reality is my presence was met with almost unanimous reservations and skeptical glances. Not many engaged, there were no lunch invitations, and except for a few polite greetings around the coffee pot, my days in this new community were lived in solitary.
I quickly realized the position I filled was previously emptied on a sour note, and this community needed time to heal before they could trust again any time soon. It wasn’t going to be easy, considering that my job involved bringing the entire team to accept a new vision and a new way of doing things which would require the very trust they were unable to give.
The truth is community isn’t always easy, predictable or trusting.
If I was going to rediscover community in this new workplace, I needed to be willing to do the very thing I was expecting my colleagues to do – push myself outside of my comfort zone.
We find community by choosing to dive into the discomfort of intention. I couldn’t wait for others to come to me, which is how I operate more times than I care to admit. Finding ways to engage and show genuine interest in others beyond the standard early morning greetings and late afternoon well wishes was crucial. It meant taking a few minutes to step into their lives and ask open-ended questions around the coffee pot, creating conversations around office collections and pictures and volunteering pieces of my own life.
We build community through our willingness to be consistent. There were times when my efforts weren’t reciprocated or were stifled because of someone else’s comfort level. It takes time to build trust and connection. We have no idea the experience of another, and breaking through the messiness of connection involves continual, honest, and compassionate effort.
Sometimes, we begin by consistently reminding ourselves we don’t need everyone to be our community; we just need a few. So we plug along, continuing to show up, and as the protective layers fall away, we begin to see the real people behind the messiness, and they see the real person behind our own.
We multiply community by adopting a mindset of compassion. Tremendous opportunities present themselves when we choose a mindset of compassion. We always have a choice.
Do we want to make shallow connections through complaining, comparing or criticizing? Or do we want to create authentic community by speaking life into each and every conversation?
How much deeper the community when we relate with no assumptions or judgements and encourage from our own life story, full of compassion and a ‘me too” mindset! How much deeper the community when we volunteer to walk the second mile, offer tangible support and bring others along to do the same!
When we choose to “Speak Life”, we reap the reward of building a community of trust, compassion, and character.
And, when we’ve done our best, we wait for God to bless through our continual, honest and compassionate effort, and it’s my experience that He never disappoints.
Many years later, my office is busy with conversations and laughter. My “feel-good” email folder is filled with words from those who have chosen to speak life into my heart. And the conversations around the coffee pot are sweet graces I treasure.
“Therefore, encourage one another, and build one another up.” ~Thessalonians 5:11