We are us. Belonging to a community means there is an “us” and not just an “I.” Even before I was born, I belonged to an “us.” My twin brother and I were born into a beautiful family of six. My dad was born into a family of 12 and my mom into a family of seven. I had more cousins than one could imagine and it wasn’t the distant sort that you “hardly ever talk to.” No, it was the sort that you live your life with. I grew up belonging to so many different people.
So, when I moved away from my small town into other Louisiana cities and towns, it was hard to feel a sense of connection. Because I worked mostly from home and traveled as an itinerant minister for years, I lived in a place that felt distant and disconnected from my life even though my physical self existed in that place.
Covid has made this experience even more explicit for many who work or have worked from home. One of the major effects of the Covid pandemic has been the disconnection from community.
Saint Mother Teresa famously said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Though our physical distance is proximate during these Covid times, our belonging feels disconnected. The disconnection feels lonely and isolating, and this disconnection increases our mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. We all see how the rise of these concerns have plagued our families, friends, and communities.
It is our call to reach into the lives of others, especially those that feel disconnected, and form connections. Pope Francis likes to call this motion of discipleship “accompaniment.” In his encyclical, Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis notes that, “The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth…” (169). We are called to “show up” in the lives of others. Sometimes I feel, in our modernity, that we feel as though we need to wait for some important event to happen before we bother people by texting, calling, or visiting.
When I feel distant from my community, I find ways to belong. For me, it has been about looking for friends who have similar likenesses and activities. I have found friends in my children’s activities or in book studies or church and social communities that I find interesting. For me, it is deciding that creating intentional community matters because we belong together.
Pope Francis is calling us back to each other. He is inviting us to walk and live together. It isn’t some intellectual act. It is the most natural human act of belonging to each other.
Sister Thea Bowman’s preachings ring in my ears as I consider Pope Francis’ action of accompaniment and belonging. Sister Thea would greet people as she met them, “Hello, sister” or “Hello, brother.” She would remind people, “We are family.” She so deeply understood how to live in a community that it flowed out of her to every person that she met. She preached, “Remember who you are and whose you are!” She saw our humanity as an action of belonging to not only each other, but to Jesus. For Sister Thea, relationships defined our humanity as well as our Christianity.
We are called to remember this even if we are drowning in loneliness. Remember, you were made not just for yourself but for us. Every single cell of your body was made so that we might get to experience you. God made you with great intention and unique gifts. If the world was a big gumbo, you are an important ingredient and we wouldn’t taste the same without you! Our community is you and me. I invite you to reach out and text, call, or visit someone. I invite you to pause and drink a cup of coffee with someone else savoring their unique existence.
We are sisters and brothers. Father Gregory Boyle reminds us that we are “kin”. He explains, “Kinship—not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not ‘a man for others;’ he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.” We are called to model Jesus. Jesus was a man that helped and healed others, but he was also a man who lived with us. In fact, the simple act of being born among us tells us who Jesus is. Jesus is with us. We are called to not be for each other but WITH each other. We are us– a community.
- Do yourself a favor and watch Sr. Thea Bowman address to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1989: Sr. Thea’s Address to U.S. Bishops
- Read Five Ways of Praying Through Sorrow with Becky Eldredge.
- Read some books by Father Gregory Boyle, S.J.
- Consider watching this power blog about “showing up”.
- National Crisis & Support Resources: These websites and hotlines exist to support you and stand with you. Please do not hesitate to reach out.
- Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration Hotline: 1-800-622-HELP (4357)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline: 1-800-950-6264 or text
- Watch Becky’s conversation with Fr. Gallagher’s on Discernment in Turbulent Times
- Looking for ways to “show up,” especially for people who fiercely struggle to belong, watch this video.
Photo by Tyler Nix on unsplash.com