This last weekend I traveled back to Oregon, both to attend the wedding of a close college friend and to see my lovely girlfriend, who is still attending Linfield College. As I came into view of the city of Portland, a city in which I lived near and was involved in for the last 5 years of my life until now, I thought to myself: “This weekend is really going to mess me up.”
I think there is something very dangerous about returning to a situation we've been in that is “comfortable.” I loved Linfield. Scratch that. I love Linfield. It is a beautiful and powerful place that has dramatically influenced the person I am becoming, and influenced the person I am striving to be. But returning to Linfield this weekend was a difficult, straining thing for me, because I felt so content and comfortable there.
My girlfriend gave me a hard time prior to my coming back, because while I was only around for 2 days, news had spread quickly on our small college campus that I would be around.“Everyone likes you Luke! They're so happy you're coming!” Now, I am NOT traditionally good at keeping touch with people if we are separated by distance, and the same has been true in the time I've been in Tucson. Quite honestly, I have failed at maintaining many relationships back at Linfield. But upon returning this weekend, I was so overwhelmed by the support and love I was shown by those I hadn't even talked to in months and months—they wanted to hear all about what I was doing, how I liked it—and they care because they know that what I'm doing matters so much to me. They know me well enough to know that while what I'm choosing to do might not be their personal preference for their future plans, it makes ME very happy and fulfilled, and therefor they are excited for me.
I'm now sitting on the plane flying back to Tucson, and I think that feeling “known” by people is a luxury of being invested somewhere. I'm now around 7 weeks into the program, and while I have made so many contacts and friendships that I am very excited about, I think a part of me is still striving to be “known.”
That isn't to say that people haven't reached out to me. My roommates are all incredible, awesome folks that I feel so lucky and blessed to live with. I think that we've started to break down the barriers that we each come in with, some of us more than others. And I'm excited that as the year goes on, we'll grow more comfortable with each other, and hopefully, feel known, supported, and loved by those who surround us on a daily basis.
Yet it is quite difficult to return to the comfortable situation at Linfield, just for a brief visit, and then jump back into the uncertainty and unknown of Tucson. I long for the feeling of community that I find when I return “home” to Linfield.
That's what we're all striving for, I think. Community, on so many different levels. Community with the people we're living with. Community with the people we're working with. Community with the people we attend religious services with. Community with the folks who attend the religious service across the street that we might disagree with. Community with the people in our neighborhood. Community with people who share our passions, our innermost yearnings for peace, reconciliation, alleviation of poverty, inter-religious understanding.
I don't know how we accomplish a sense of community similar to the one I feel at Linfield in one year instead of five. Maybe we don't. But I know from my experiences that community doesn't necessarily happen because we try to make it happen. The most genuine communities of which I've been a part have occurred organically, when people simply meet each other where they're at, with open hearts and listening ears.
Open hearts and listening ears.
I want to share your pain and multiply your joy.
I want to give you room to speak, room to process, room to vent, without an agenda of my own, but with the desire to have your voice heard and respected.
Open hearts and listening ears.