I have a tribe.
I mean, a serious tribe of friends. The type of friends that I can laugh with, cry with, pray with, put down as an emergency contact, have chaotic family dinners with, and swap kids with. One of these friends even took care of my 18 month old for 11 days while I was out of the country last summer (she would not let me talk her out of it).
It goes against any notions of trying to live life in my own bubble. We do life together.
So when a member of this tribe came to us with the news that her family is moving to another state…it rocked us all.
As I listened to her sob that day the thing she kept coming back to was “how do we leave this? We will never find this again.”
The more I’ve had time to think through her devastation of leaving her tribe and the relationships she has built (mind you in only 5 years) and reflect on how we got to this level of community in the first place, I’ve come to a few conclusions on the process of building community.
- It takes time. You don’t meet a Mom at the park, talk for 20 minutes, then ask her to be your emergency contact person for your kid’s school forms. Foundations of relationships are built from face to face time over hours, weeks, months, and years. It’s not just through a screen, it’s not just being with them a couple of times.
- It means going to social events even when you don’t feel like. At least in the initial stages. When we first moved here there was a group of women who got together on Sunday nights from 8-10 at a local Starbucks to hang out. When I first started being around the women that went there I was still teaching and coaching full-time. There were Sunday nights that the LAST place I wanted to be was sitting in a cold Starbucks because I was exhausted. But I went. I was really tired on some of those Monday mornings but I was in the building stages of something more important, relationships. So go, even if you don’t even drink coffee at 8:00pm (I don’t).
- It means having friends that you probably wouldn’t have hung out with in high school. High school was weird anyways, right? If I was going to classify the people I’m friends with now based on their high school reputation we’d have a few jocks, a youth-group junkie, a preacher’s kid, a choir girl, a math Olympiad team member, a drill team member, and a skater. We probably wouldn’t have all sat at the same lunch table, but it doesn’t matter…because we’re adults. We have an age range of 8 years among us, our W-2 forms have varying amounts on them, and (gasp!) we don’t all vote the same way. Shared experiences and similar life stages make those differences fade away real quick.
- It may feel like dating at first. You have to put yourself out there. You have to ask people for their numbers (or just figure out how to spell their name so you can find (stalk) them on the internet). When I walked into a women’s bible study for the first time I sat next to a girl because she had on a cute chevron dress and she looked athletic. We are good friends now, but I totally speed-dated her.
- The catalyst may have to be you. If you don’t see people doing life together where you are, cultivate it. You may have to be the person to invite someone over. You may have to organize get togethers. You may need to be the person that creates the group text. It may not be your personality type to do this but most people desire to have close relationships but they are just waiting to be invited in. Invite them.
- You have to be willing to ask for help. Doing everything on your own doesn’t create a sense of community. Let your friends help you, even when you don’t think you need it. This can be as simple as asking for prayers when you are in the middle of something tough. On the flip side of this you have to give help as well. Take a couple extra kids for a day, invite the Mom and kids that are solo for the week over for dinner, or drop off rations at a friend’s house who just got hit with the stomach bug (totally acceptable to knock the door and run away in this situation).
Starting from scratch is hard. But, we aren’t meant to close our doors and struggle through life alone. Be uncommon in your relationships and find people to live life together with.
And if you in the Oklahoma City area and you are looking for a friend that loves people in extraordinary ways, I know of one coming your way.