By Lois Vidaver
There’s something about community that our family leans into. We seem to seek out folks we can hang with, either at summer camp or for weekly breakfast dates.
This way of life, I believe, all began one morning during our Ohio days. I woke up to hear my groggy husband, Mike, muttering, “I don’t know, I think I’m getting a little bored with our lives.” Oops, that was certainly a splash of cold water in the face, a wake-up-fast kind of moment.
Rather than panic, we talked about it. It turns out we both felt like we were becoming inward-looking. Ready to do something to lift us out of a funk, we went on a Marriage Encounter (ME) weekend. Its slogan, “Making a good marriage, great,” and following its 20-minutes-a-day program of intense dialogue, helped our relationship blossom. We found ourselves in a community of like-minded couples, meeting weekly in each other’s homes.
When we were asked to lead weekends, other ME couples watched our children while we flew off to Connecticut and Indiana. Our kids soon had lots of new aunts, uncles and cousins, learning to trust friends who became like family.
The Bruderhof, a Christian community, was another interesting experience for our family. It was so very different from our everyday lives. Bruderhof is a lifestyle that practices the example of the first Christian church.
Spending two weeks in that rural Pennsylvania commune, it was as though we had parachuted into another planet. Families as well as single men and women who gathered around their dinner meal ate in silence (the children ate separately). Background music was provided by an orchestra softly playing the classics. Surprisingly, this concert was not applauded. Everything done in the Bruderhof is “to the glory of God,” not to plump up egos. Unsigned paintings lining the walls underscored this philosophy.
Although there was no charge for visitors, it was expected that we would work for our room and board, placed in the area where the community needed us. Mike was assigned to building toys in the Community Playthings workshop; I was delegated to the laundry. Humility not being my strong suit, I protested. “I do not like ironing,” I stated.
Whoa, I cringe even writing that sentence. I really didn’t get it at the beginning. In that atmosphere, we learned to think of others, not ourselves.
My partner in the laundry, for instance, had earned a master’s degree in biology and probably didn’t like steaming shirts either but she wasn’t whining. It’s a memory I bring to mind when I begin to feel uppity.
Recently, we began looking for fellowship in a different way. Community lunches and dinners have sprung up around us and we find ourselves attending them. Put on by local churches, they attract diners coming from near and far to share a meal. After dropping in at the same location several times, we end up making new acquaintances.
Each venue offers a different vibe. One finishes up with a hymn-sing and short meditation. Still another sports its motto on a big sign at the entrance: “No preachin’, just eatin’.”
Looking back, when we realized that we had to stop thinking that we are all we need, we reached outside of our comfort zone for community. It certainly enhanced our family’s life story.
Lois Vidaver, from the Town of Tonawanda, looks for fellowship where she can find it.