Sometimes I wonder what real community is all about. Is it something that we can grab on to, or is it always beyond our reach? I realize I do my fellow community members a disservice by thinking that the presence of suffering or pain means that we are missing something. Let’s consider how we can see these moments of struggle in relationships as the very place where glimpses of community are bursting through, and commit a sense of fidelity to those we hold dear.
Jean Vanier is the founder of L’Arche Community. His writings of his own experience in communal living speak truth to us all.
“Many people believe that community life is made up of a series of problems to be solved. And consciously or unconsciously, they are waiting for the day when all the tensions, conflicts, and problems brought by marginal people and structures will be resolved and there will be no more problems life! But the more we live community life, the more we discover that it is not so much a question of resolving problems as of learning to live with them patiently. Most problems are not resolved. With time, and a certain insight and fidelity in listening, they clear up when we least expect them.
But there will always be others to take their place!
Very often, we tend to look for “great” moments or beautiful and ecstatic celebrations. We forget that the best nourishment of community life, the one which renews us and opens our hearts, is in all the small gestures of fidelity, tenderness, humility, forgiveness, sensitivity, and welcome which make up everyday life. It is these which are at the heart of community and can bring us to a realization of love. It is these which touch hearts and reveal gifts. (p. 300)
Vanier, J. (1979). Community and Growth