We live in Virginia, and like many of you who live on the East Coast, this past Friday we enjoyed the privilege of experiencing one of the weirdest and most inconvenient storms I’ve ever seen. For those of you who didn’t get to join the party, it was basically an hour or two of ridiculous amounts of winds upward of 75 mph, as if some storm front realized it was way behind on some serious storming and had to make up for lost time. In response to this bizarre meteorological event, every tree in sight panicked and threw itself dramatically onto the nearest power line. (It was actually a pretty cool storm if you’re into that kind of thing, which we generally are.)
After the Storm
Anyway, the result was that we lost power at our lovely little apartment outside town, and since our water is pumped from a well, it meant we were left without running water, air conditioning, or the ability to refrigerate our food. We were forced to live elsewhere for most of this past week, and just got our power back yesterday. It’s an inconvenience a lot of us can relate to right now, with so many still waiting for power and people in other places like Colorado being forced from their homes due to the wildfires. Displacement is a strange and unsettling experience, even in cases like ours where you can manage to work around most of the inconveniences, and it evokes lots of thoughts about our reliance on the power grid, or how unprepared we are for the unexpected, or our vulnerability to the natural world around us.
What it left me with, more than anything, was actually just a simple gratitude for the good people in our lives. Our friends Brad and Lindsey took us in and let us share their apartment this week, and between them and a few other friends, we were really taken care of during the awkwardness of not being able to live in our home. It was such a blessing for us to be able to have places where we were welcome, without any strings or awkwardness or feeling like we were inconvenient guests. Even though it was kind of a pain to not be able to use our own place, this past week ended up feeling like a little vacation for us, with lots of time to enjoy some of our friends.
My thoughts, after this week of displacement, have to do with the importance of sharing our lives with others. How many people do you have in your life that you could crash at their apartment with zero notice for most of a week? Or, flip it around: how many of your friends would truly feel like they could impose on you like that? It’s an interesting test of what kind of community we have to think of what people we’re most comfortable inconveniencing/being inconvenienced by. How many people would watch your dog (or kids) for a weekend? How many of your friends would help you move even if you didn’t have pizza?
Working for it
Rachel and I talk a lot in our marriage about the importance of investing in our community and relationships, so we’re not shocked or anything to find ourselves surrounded by good, quality people. But it’s one thing to chat about how we want to be available for friends or let our needs be met by them, and another to actually do the difficult work of making that happen.
Friendships and community are a lot of work, and it usually has to be pretty careful work at that. It’s not just having people over for dinner, it’s hosting in a way that makes them feel comfortable and liked, and making sure we’re not being perfectionists or trying to impress them with our house or our cooking, and not getting offended if they don’t invite us over as often, and being okay if they’re late or if our house didn’t get picked up all the way. It’s work to be a friend to someone.
And even though no one thinks about it as much, it’s actually a lot of work to let someone be a friend to us as well. If we never let anyone pay us back for beer, or always apologize for bothering them when we stop by, or refuse to let them help with the dishes when they come over for dinner, we’re being difficult and obnoxious and not letting them have a role as our friends.
It’s important to be interdependent. We need to be sharing our lives with others. There’s a weird energy that comes from letting people inconvenience us, or from letting our friends inconvenience themselves for us. It doesn’t feel “natural” to do, and it takes a lot of practice, but the resulting strangely satisfying synergy is the stuff that real community is made of.
So… who is your life being shared with?