All are needed by each one;
Nothing is fair or good alone.
Coming back from forty eight hours of stimulating conversation on community building, I have been asked a number of questions about my experience. One the themes of the inquiries which has stood out to me in its frequency is this: "Who did you like the most or had the greatest influence on you during the time away?" My answer: No one. Surprising? I even startled myself by my response.
Then these words tumbled out of my mouth.
"The people all around the table cared about community. I think this common bond created a healthy shared experience. Each one brought themselves to the table and contributed to the beauty of the experience. We listened long and well to each other. When we spoke it was from a deep place of knowing. The whole of group was lifted up and we named together our experiences of community. I cannot highlight one person's contribution over the other in meaning making for me because in doing so I would somehow diminish the whole of work we accomplished together."
Even with that said, there was one conversation I will remember.
One of the members of the group--who I respect greatly for her work about community-- said this to me as we walked together.
"I want to hear you speak more. You have a lot to offer the group. We need to hear it."
My introverted self was challenged to open up. She was right. I needed to find a way to express myself more.
So I did.
And community was built for me. I became part of it rather than an outsider to it.
I learned something in that nudging. As much as I am unwilling to parse out the importance of the group experience into a heirarchy of an individual's influence on the conversation, I think the "on the way to somewhere else" exhortation about my contribution to the conversation was very important to the quality of the experience I and others had during those three days at St. John's. Everyone's voice matters. The seeking out of the one for the sake of the whole is part of the community building experience. This includes my receiving the nudge as well as giving it.
"Come on. You can do it. You have something to offer. How we can help you find your voice in this place."
Holding the one and the whole together is an artform of grace and life. For all those who desire to deepen in their life in community, let us not forget this. I know I won't.