This is something I wrote in May of last year. Thought I’d share it here:
Reaching across the aisle
Community. A concept that discribes our need for other people. A sense of belonging. The church is great at being trendy these days. Church words also trendy are: Missional, emerging, authentic, simple, purpose, mystery… Good words reaching deep into our souls and pulling out the longings of our heart to live out an intentionality that comes from faith.
So I was thinking about “community.” Where have I felt most part of a community? I had to honestly reflect that it wasn’t in church. The deepest sense of community I have felt was in my high school choir and then in the high school and college football teams I played on. Each community was unique but shared some qualities:
A shared love of something larger than us.
In choir, we loved music. We set our individuality aside to develop a rich, full sound that was unified. Our director seperated us from our other voice parts (tenor, alto, bass, soprano) in order to have a full choir sound, rather than pockets of singers singing the same parts. We sat next to other vocal parts several weeks before and during performances where we learned to really hear the parts surrounding us. In this manner, we learned how to adjust our voices to those next to us, lowering the volume of our individual voice to allow us to blend our voices with each other. We practiced give and take. In so doing, we could more fully participate in hearing the music we were making. To relish the chord structures and sounds the composer intended.
In football, we loved the controlled violence of physical competition. We loved the risk of competing against a common foe. We loved the pagentry, the sounds and smells of game day. The brotherhood of the team. The value of sweating and bleeding and hurting together.
A shared sense of mission.
Both groups of people had the goal of performing well. We didn’t want to let down either the other members of the group, our choir director/coaches, or our audience. So we put in long hours of practice and preparation to get the job done well. To accomplish a shared task.
A realization of the value of each other.
No choir member could sing all four parts by themself at one time. Their part fit a larger whole. No player could throw the ball down the field and catch it at the same time. Every position player was needed. In football, that was also especially true in practice. Every member of a team has a responsibility to the rest of the team and each person must do their job so they all build upon each other to accomplish the common task.
The truth of the value of every member of the community was defined to me on my high school football team. There was a guy named Lonny on our team. Lonny wasn’t big, he wasn’t fast, he wasn’t particularly talented. But Lonny LOVED football. He loved to hit. Everytime you lined up opposite Lonny, you knew you were going to get hit. He didn’t win every, or even most contests against bigger and quicker teammates, but if you didn’t work hard everytime you went against him, he could make you look really bad, because Lonny ALWAYS worked hard. I think Lonny figured out early that the way he could be the biggest asset to the team was by making everyone else better. He never started, but did play on some special teams. His was also the loudest voice on the sidelines yelling encouragement and the first to congratulate a player making a great play.
After the season, we always had a team banquet where we passed out awards, and “cussed, spit, and told ourselves how tough we were.” When we turned in our gear, the team would vote on the most valuable player for the year. When I received the ballot, I knew immediately I would vote for Lonny. I figured my ballot would be the only one, but I was pleased, surprised, and satisfied that my teammates agreed with me. Lonny was elected the most valuable player. We all reailized how important Lonny’s attitude and passion for the game and our team was. He both pushed all of us to be better and pulled us out of ourselves.
That is the nature of community.