Are you part of the community?
An educator recently asked a group of Sinai Temple congregants, “This past week, when did you find a moment in which you felt the strength of community?” Each person answered with a different, poignant, positive response. One of the participants hesitated and asked the educator, “Have you ever had a situation where someone answers in the negative? Meaning, they haven’t experienced community?” The educator paused and realized that in the many instances she offers the question as an icebreaker, each participant is able to declare a moment in their week in which they either witnessed or engaged in a positive communal experience.
I don’t believe we feel “community” all the time. But the educator’s response begs the quandary: perhaps there are more communal opportunities than we realize; sometimes it takes our initiative to feel included. Meaning, once pushed to open our eyes or encouraged to see the many pathways of connection, the onus is on us to step forward and seek to be counted. Instead of waiting for someone to say hello, what if we planned on saying hello first? What if community starts with us?
Hillel said, “Do not separate yourself from the community.” Bartenura, a 15th century Italian commentary explained, “Share in their troubles.” Meaning, engage enough with the people around you so that you understand what burdens they hold. Perhaps, in doing so, they will come to understand the lot you carry as well.
Open your eyes…community is all around. Instead of asking, “Why haven’t they reached out to me?”, let us wonder, “How can I push myself forward?”