I was with a friend who had gone through a major life trauma and he was talking about a conversation he’d just had with another friend.
“He told me, ‘Don’t put any expectations on me,'” my friend recounted. “And I said, ‘Isn’t that what friends do? Don’t we have expectations that we’ll help one another? And right now, I need help.'”
Real community is an interconnected relationship of mutual needs. It’s a web. A web works only by the tension each strand has with the rest — they all pull on one another and are held in shape by that tension.
If I don’t need my community, it is merely a club I’ve joined. I can take it or leave it without losing anything. And far too many of our relationships are that way. We enjoy them, but we don’t need them. We’ve never leaned on them and have, therefore, never been supported by them. But if we’ consider our most enduring relationships, they’re the ones we’ve leaned on and which have leaned on us as well.
Self-sufficiency is death to community. It also happens to be a myth. Because we really do need each other.
This begs two questions:
Will I be humble enough and vulnerable enough to need you?
Will I be attentive enough to see your need and actively generous enough to support you in it?
My answers determine my experience of community.