I have been thinking the last few weeks about community and all that it means. In my life we are a part of a number of different communities; our neighborhood, the boys' schools, our church, the boys' hockey teams, and our various friendship circles. For a lot of people these are just things they do, the people they know. But for us, these activities, these places, these people make up our communities. I have been trying to figure out the difference, the reason some people can just show up and others feel a need to contribute. The reason people are so quick to change churches, friends, activities.
I think it all starts with buy in, with a sense of willingness to commit to the group. We move a lot so we don't have time to wait around to feel a part of any community. If we did, we would be packing up the moving truck just as we were starting to feel a sense of community. Because we move a lot we are quick to step in and commit to our schools, our church, our library - library cards are one of our first items checked off the moving to do list. We jump in and start volunteering and supporting our new communities. I make friends quickly, for myself and my boys, and make sure to show up.
I think it helps that we have always been able to choose where we moved, the neighborhood we would live in and the church we would attend. When we moved to the Bay Area a few years ago, my husband and I went on a trip to visit the area before we made our final decision to accept a new job or not. Our first stop was at the ice rink that hockey boy would learn to play hockey. He loved hockey and we wanted to make sure that the facilities were going to meet our needs. We also were able to afford to live in an amazing neighborhood with wonderful schools. And God put the perfect church in our path through our preschool search. We found Kirk House preschool first and when we went to visit it we discovered Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. God's leading us there was such an act of grace for us. But every step of the way was a choice we got to make. We got to choose our school, our church, our neighborhood. And we were thrilled with it all. There were ups and downs, a lot of ups and downs. But it was our community and were invested in it. We bought in to Bay Area life.
When we got to come home I was so thrilled to be coming back to somewhere where we already had community built in. We already had a preschool. We already had our house, our neighbors. We already had a church and friends. We were able to plug right back into our communities.
But now we are facing some challenges at the places we love. Our church stopped having a Saturday evening service while we were away which has been a challenge with the boys' hockey schedules. We had chosen the church partly because of the various service times. We love Saturday night services and prefer that worship time. And now it is gone. Our church is a huge part of our lives. We love the people, the pastors, the sense of community we have there. But as our hockey schedule becomes more demanding and we visit churches with more flexibility we start to wonder. Are we at the right place for our family? I believe we are. We love our church. We are tied to our church by so many beautiful threads. My boys were loved in the nursery as babies. Many of my dearest friends I know because of our church. I love getting to be a part of sharing God's word with the women at our church. These threads bind us close, even when we are far away at a hockey tournament.
Our public school district enacted boundary changes while we were gone and our elementary school was changed. We had never been to the other school but part of our decision for moving to our neighborhood was the strong elementary school. I still like the boys' school but we are starting to find that it may not be meeting the needs of our boys any longer. We are in the process of trying to figure out a good solution but I am starting to wonder if the school can meet the boys' needs. And with deeper budget cuts just around the corner it makes me even less confident.
I am finding that in some of our communities that sense of buy in is lessening. I think part of this is because of the changes that happened. We made choices that worked for our family and also upheld our higher family priorities, our commitment to being a part of God's family through a committed relationship with one church, our desire to be salt and light in the world, and our desire to give our kids the best education possible so they will be able to use the gifts and talents God has given them to change the world for Him. I am finding that our family priorities are not necessarily working in our current communities. But because we have bought in to our communities, because we feel a sense of commitment to our communities we are trying really hard to find a way to make it all work.
It is the buy in, the commitment, that is holding us to our communities. I am thankful for that commitment. I am thankful we are tied to our communities even when it is hard to make it all work. Because for me, community is one of the great joys and challenges of life on earth.