One of the biggest lessons I have learned about community is showing up.
It’s so hard sometimes… and I recognize the difficulty many have with showing up. It most often comes back to trust. When we have risked and been hurt, risked and been hurt, it gets harder and harder for us to come back. This is why, for many people, church is the last place they want to show up to. It’s just too foreign. It’s not normal. But then again, neither is a yoga studio (and many don’t come because they “aren’t flexible”… I guess you have a bit more freedom with the latter, though, to be who you are. We all have one thing in common… our breath.
It amazes me virtually every time, this showing up… especially the times when I most don’t want to be there. I make up excuses in my head… reasons for closing off the community… preconceived ideas of how people are going to act towards me. It’s like pulling teeth to get myself out of bed, or out the door. But when I come, when I do arrive… so often I am completely surprised by those I come into contact with. As Kat says, “well, I guess you can throw your theory [about what was going to happen] out the window!”
How do we get people to show up, then? How do we create a space where people know that even if they don’t want to be there, it is better for them to be with the group than to not be with the group? My thinking is that it has to do with the group and the atmosphere that the leadership (however defined or undefined that leadership is).
I wrote about the Trust Factor a while back… and I think it really has to do with building this from the beginning. See, a group must have in running through their blood that it is ok for people to be exactly how they are. In fact, this is how we must want people. What has happened to someone in the last week, day, or even hour before arrival colors their entire experience. This is far more important than where we think they should be and if we don’t seek to understand where others are at, we are setting up our communities to hurt people from the beginning.
The other thing, I have found to be very well received, is to walk with people through the layers. Often I hear people say that they it is hard for them to engage in community because they don’t open up readily or trust easily. My response, and it often is in invitation to our Spiritual Integration classes, is to say that we walk there together. We take the layers off, starting with a simple telling of our story and working into processing that together. Whether we easily open, or fearfully close… we want a beginner’s mind that builds from where the most significant need is.
Our communities should feel like home… for whoever comes in our “doors,” first time or long time. Our showing up, present and authentic, is invitation for others to feel that “home” as well. Show them home… bring it with you… this is how we show up and how we create communities that are transformational.