It is easy to talk about Belonging as a concept or an ideal but being in community is not easy when things get rough. Community is hard and belonging requires persistence and grace.
Jean Vanier’s classic, Life in Community, seeks to define community and how to live in it. “At first sight, community life seems wonderful: a true ideal. But let’s admit it: it’s not easy to live alongside people who are very different than ourselves. In every person, there is a gap between the desire to love and accept everyone else, and the reality of loving them as a brother or a sister in everyday life. So, the community is not an ideal, where each person is discovered to be perfect; for we are all human beings, and each of us has our weaknesses and difficulties in opening ourselves up to others in relationship. And so, community becomes a place of healing and liberating our hearts, a place where we gradually learn to love and forgive each one another from day to day.”
Feeling that you belong is a wonderful experience. Knowing you are accepted just the way you are; receiving and offering forgiveness to one another, being tenderhearted with one another, carrying each other’s burdens in tough times. These are the gifts of community that bring us great joy. But community life can also bring us much pain when we act out of fear, envy, violence or even hatred.
You won’t be in a community for too long to realise that community is hard work and we can easily fall prey to tiredness and discouragement. It takes God’s strength, spirituality and daily nourishment to have the energy needed to work for true community and its daily mission for peace. May we continue to strive to become a community of faith nurtured by the Spirit.