Finding community

The woman at the end of the table spoke earnestly. She and her husband had moved to our town some time ago, found a nice apartment, settled into a welcoming church, but feel somewhat isolated. She and her husband joined the Y, found some programs and activity they enjoy at the senior center, take advantage of excellent theater and concerts in this university town. But outside their friendly church congregation, they feel like outsiders.

My wife and I had filled our plates at a potluck dinner/shower for a couple in our church choir who had recently married. As we took our seats, we found ourselves seated next to this engaging couple. They are interesting, charming folks with life stories to share, but they’re finding it increasingly difficult to find and make new friends. They feel isolated.

“What we need is community,” she told us. Where they formerly lived, approaching people and making new friends seemed easier than it is here, in their new home.

This is sad. When our family first moved here, we were struck by how accessible and friendly everyone seemed. If we appeared confused, people would approach us and offer to give us directions to where we wanted to go.

I suspect that many of us enjoy plenty of social contact with like-minded other people in groups that are specific to a particular interest or activity, singing in a community chorus, for instance, a book club, making quilts, following NASCAR racing or a local sports team. But such associations, for all their benefits, tend to encourage exclusivity.

Our friends might try harder to approach their neighbors and initiate new friendships, yes, But we all need to open our personal doors wider and welcome the stranger, the newcomer, the lonely, more warmly, making new friends of them.

Today’s word: podium. This is a small platform on which a person may stand in order to be seen by an audience or to conduct an orchestra or choir. It is not, no, not ever, something on which to place notes and stand behind to deliver a speech or address a group. That is a lectern or in some settings a pulpit. If you’re not standing on it, it isn’t a podium.

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