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I’m not a superstitious person. I’m not even a little stitious (though clearly I don’t mind being corny about it). I don’t think you can get bad luck on Friday the 13th. Even still, I wouldn’t recommend walking under a ladder on Friday the 13th…or any day of the year for that matter. It just doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do.
On this particular Friday the 13th, my family and I went to a big box store, and right as we got near to the automatic sliding doors, my son got stung on his neck by a yellow jacket.
He yelped, and when I looked at him next to me, I could see the yellow jacket was still stuck. I swatted the yellow jacket away from my son, but the sting started swelling instantly. He had never been stung before, so my first thought was to hope he wasn’t allergic. The sting was continuing to hurt and burn, and soon his whole neck was red. I stepped inside the store with him thinking, “Hey, at least we’re at a store and can buy whatever we need.” I noticed some empty chairs in the vision center, so we rounded the corner and took a seat so I could take a closer look at the sting.
An employee saw me comforting my son, and she gave me a concerned look. “He was just stung by a yellow jacket,” I said.
“This is going to sound really weird,” the employee said, “but deodorant’s good for that. We’ve got little travel containers, and I think they’re only 97 cents.”
It sounded weird. Home remedies often do do. It was almost like she told me to spray a little Windex on it. But, because I couldn’t think of anything else to try at that moment, we went and scored ourselves a little travel size stick of deodorant. Something about the deodorant seemed to cool off the burning sensation of the sting. I have no idea why it worked, but it seemed to have provided enough temporary relief until we could get home.
For the moments while we were sitting in the vision center, employees took turns coming to check on my son’s neck. They asked if they could get us anything. They gave him a Dum Dum sucker, and those make everything better. Soon, the stinging feeling subsided enough that we finished what we were at the store to do, and then we headed back home.
In the car, we talked about how nice all those people were in the vision center. We talked about how that’s the way we should take care of other people, even people we don’t know. And, after about an hour of being at home, everything was completely back to normal. No more stinging feeling, no more swelling, no more discomfort. You wouldn’t even have been able to tell that anything had happened the hour before.
I share this story (with my son’s permission) not because it’s remarkable, but precisely because it isn’t. These are the stories of every day community that are happening all around us. These are the stories that few people are telling, but everyone needs to hear.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are lots of bad and scary things in the world. I know that there is so much suffering, and so much pain, and so much fear. I don’t think we should sweep those things under the rug, but I don’t think we should dwell on them to the exclusion of the other things that are happening every day.
We can’t allow the darkness to blind us to the countless flickers of light.
There in the vision center, I saw a little glimpse of community: people who cared, people who were there and listening, people who were ready to jump into action when needed. We didn’t even know the names of the people who worked there, but they cared. And they didn’t care for us because we were customers; they cared because we were people.
In a class I’m teaching right now on the book of Hebrews, we are challenging ourselves to keep our eyes open for glimpses of community in the world. We’re only a couple of weeks in, and we’ve already seen and experienced some amazing displays of community all around us. It makes me realize that those community-moments have been there all along, I was just too busy following my to-do list, or wrangling kids to notice.
I experience community in my church as people care for each other, pray for each other, and as so many are willing to go out and help wherever they can.
I experience community in my neighborhood as we let each other know that a garage door was left open by accident, or as everyone gathers in support when someone has experienced loss.
I experience community in the line at the grocery store. It’s easy to be in a hurry there, but I’ve found there’s almost always someone with a story to share if I’m willing to listen.
Community is what supports and surrounds us. When we live life without that support and without that community surrounding us, it’s like trying to put up a beach umbrella on a Nebraska-windy day. But for so many of us, for so much of our lives, we feel like we are without a community. In our society where people rarely stay rooted in one place for any length of time, just as community begins to form, members of the community move away and have to begin the difficult work of assembling a new community of people who will listen, who will be there, who will care.
Finding community takes time, but it begins with those little experiences that are happening all around us if we’re willing to look and listen.
Where have you seen and experienced community recently?
Are your eyes open for those opportunities to connect with the people around you?
As an introvert, I realize that reaching out to people we don’t know can be scary. It can get our hearts racing, and even make us feel a little sweaty.
But, hey, I hear deodorant is good for that.