Often we have a tendency to ignore or forget the people in our community whose impact on our lives we cannot see on a daily basis. How often do we think about our civic leaders, business owners, veterans, people who are homeless, children in foster care or still living with daily abuse or neglect, those in prison, people living with disabilities or chronic health problems, the elderly, those who have lost loved ones, and those who are lonely?
While we may enjoy our comfortable friend groups, and naturally spend time with family and neighbors, there are others in our community who are considered to be on the “fringes of society.” Are we tempted to not interact with them? Why is that? It is all too easy to live by the principle of “out of sight, out of mind.” But what are we missing by not connecting with people who are out of our daily line of sight, and not on our minds? What are they missing because we are not connecting with them?
I am not naïve enough to think that we can connect with every single person in our community. But I’m guessing most of us have the capacity to do more than we are currently doing. Lately, I have been going out of my way to deliberately connect with new people, especially those who many would consider to be on the “fringes” of my community. I have been incredibly blessed to create friendships with a couple of people who are temporarily homeless, inviting them to our home for a meal, bringing them along on family outings, and receiving texts from them letting me know they’re praying for me. Watching my family embrace them and pray for and with them has been a priceless gift. I am learning to be more generous with my time, talents, material possessions, and financial resources.
All around me, I’m beginning to connect with others who are reaching out and deliberately creating community with those who would otherwise not be readily included. One family has purchased a home and created housing opportunities (along with support and accountability) for women in transition. Another individual uses his time off to “hang out” with a person with significant disabilities to provide respite for his family. Over the years, he has become family. In schools, students are agreeing to be mentors for students with disabilities, and are not only helping those individuals navigate the academic environment, but they are also being and gaining friends. Some fight for justice on behalf of those who have no voice, or provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities or other unique needs. Others provide free or low-cost construction, plumbing, electrical, dental, medical, legal, or other assistance for those who could not otherwise afford it. Some feed the hungry. Others provide blankets, coats, and shoes for people who are homeless.
I’d love to hear about the ways you are deliberately creating community in your area. If this is a new concept, I encourage you to look for ways to reach out to others to meet some of the needs around you. I promise that you’ll likely gain more than you give, and in doing so, will make the world a better place for all of us!