Accepting opportunities to interact within our community.

From the time we’re born, we’re taught about the importance of community and family. We come to rely on those who provide us food, shelter, and safety. Finding our people is one of our most basic instincts. And once we do that and and have our social needs met, then we can focus on our larger needs like exploration and creativity — our minds are free to wander the world around us. 

It is a selfish enterprise, really, because once we find our group, we no longer feel the need to broaden our horizons. Our circles sometimes close off because we ignore the idea that there are others out there who might be longing for the same connection we enjoy; we simply move on enjoying our higher-level worries, like existential crises or pondering poetry. 

The irony, though, is that for most of us, it took someone to open their own circle for just a moment to welcome us in. As an introvert myself, I’ve found that every social group I’m a part of happened that way because someone not only invited me, but also introduced me to others. We celebrate this when our children go out of their way to welcome a new kid at school, but we as adults are much less likely to do the same — probably because our social needs are already being met. 

There is one pointed verse in the Bible, found in the book of Hebrews, chapter 10, that reads, “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.”

We can inspire each other to do all kinds of things at any given moment. Just Google “road rage” videos for the negative or John Krasinski’s YouTube series, “Some Good News,” which he created during the height of the pandemic. Some would argue further that how we interact with fellow community workers directly correlates to what we bring out of one another. Whether it be on the playground or at work, we all traverse in and out of different communities all the time. Sometimes we are just passing through and other times we linger for a while. The question isn’t, “Are we in a community?” but rather, “Am I allowing others to be included?” If we want to steer one another toward love and good deeds, then we must open our circles and let others into our life. 

One time, I was at the grocery store picking up some produce for my wife. I like to see if I can set a personal speed record when I’m in grocery stores — Get in and out as fast as possible. As I was speed walking toward the produce aisle, my goal was hoodwinked by this sweet older woman who was hovering over the spinach — the exact item I needed. It seemed to me that she was no longer able to move briskly, so I was patient and pretended to look at something else so as not to appear impatient. 

She was clearly self-aware because it didn’t take more than a few seconds for her to apologize to me for being slow. In my feign attempt at hiding my displeasure at blowing my speed run, I noticed her shirt that said, “I doubt, therefore, I might be.” I told her I liked it, and she relayed a lovely story about her children getting her a new shirt every year for her birthday. Then, as if harboring a life-changing secret, she asked, “Do you want to know my favorite?” Well, my interest was piqued, so I said, “Sure!” With a smiley grin, she says, “The late cannibal gets the cold shoulder.” We laughed together for a moment before I continued my quest for spinach. 

Small interactions like this one can make a difference. Every day, one of the choices we get to make is how we see each other. We can see each other as wallpaper flashing by in the background of our lives or as obstacles that slow us down. But the better option is to see each of us as part of my community. Each person presents us a unique opportunity with which to make a memory. If we treat every action as an opportunity to grow and do good, how different would we be? Better yet, what are we missing by not opening our circles for just a moment to let someone else in?