Category Archives: Community

we could build a good thing here, too.

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There is some music in this world that grips my heart and leaves me breathless. Much of Josh Garrels’s newest album, Love & War & The Sea In Between, is classified in this category of being gut-wrenching. (And he is so great that you can actually download part of the album for FREE from his website. Oh yeahhhhh.)

His song “Bread & Wine” has been especially meaningful in my life. It’s a vision of how I hope to be one day.

“Bread & Wine” by Josh Garrels

I was wrong, everybody needs someone, to hold on
Take my hand, I’ve been a lonesome man, took a while to understand

There’s some things we can’t live without,
A man’s so prone to doubt,
Faithful are the wounds from friends.
So give it just a little time,
Share some bread and wine
Weave your heart into mine,
My friend

Walls fall down, where there’s a peaceful sound, lonely souls hang around
Don’t be shy, there’s nothing left to hide, come on let’s talk a while

Of the places we left behind,
No longer yours and mine
But we could build a good thing here too
So give it just a little time,
Share bread and wine
Weave your heart into mine

If I fall, I fall alone, but you can help to bear the load
A threefold chord is hard to break
All I have I give to you if you will share your sorrows too,
Then joy will be the crown upon our heads
My friend

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Because I am a TCK…

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One week ago, having picked up my best friend at the airport and barely finished a whirlwind of papers, I was driving out to West Chicago with a stomach full of butterflies. My friend and former vocal ensemble director Michèle had issued a summons, and trust me when I say that you just can’t say no to Michèle. She’s one of the most charming and witty and saucy women I have ever met, and to top it off, she is beginning a new ministry to TCKs and needed our help. So off I went to spend a weekend with a group of my kind–Third Culture Kids.

Maybe you’ve never heard of us. I wouldn’t be surprised. Academia refer to us as “bicultural,” something I found out on my very first day of graduate school. (I didn’t take the time to explain to my professor that the term was inadequate. If only I were made of just two cultures.) Well, don’t worry if you don’t know who we are. We’re really hard to explain anyway.

Enter Michèle. This lovely lady has taken it upon herself to be a resource to the TCKs of the world. (Check it out.) She’s not just a voice for us (even though she is a TCK, with a lovely voice to boot); she actually wants us to have our own voice, and she takes the time to let us share our own stories.

That was the point of last weekend. We gathered in a lovely little guesthouse in West Chicago, pampered by the culinary ministrations of her lovely mama. She gathered 13 of us. We represented 21 countries in all. We were all alum of the same boarding school, and although we hadn’t all attended at the same time, that commonality was immediately binding in the most familiar way. I can hardly believe now that I was actually nervous about last weekend, that I actually thought I might not have anything to contribute, or that I might feel like I didn’t belong. I’d forgotten what it meant to commune with other TCKs.

I can’t even begin to process last weekend. There were lots of laughs shared and lots of tears shed as we told our stories of what it meant to move overseas, to attend a boarding school, to return to America–and to try to fit into all these different contexts. I hadn’t thought about this stuff in so long. I think this could be the start of a new journey for me.

We began the weekend with this request from Michèle: “Please finish the statement, ‘Because I am a TCK…'” I gave some mediocre response because I’m an introvert and I need a ridiculous amount of time to process and answer questions like that. This week, though, I wrote my real answer–or, actually, it kind of wrote itself. To be honest, my answer kind of shocked me. It’s as if in the last few years, I’ve cut myself off from who I used to be. I guess this weekend re-opened a whole can of worms. But as I sit here, remembering the weekend, I know it’s a good thing. I’ve missed this. I’ve missed being connected with this part of myself, even the parts that are bittersweet.

Because I am a TCK…I resent change, but am afraid of permanence.

Yeah, I need to chew on that a while, too. =]

transparent communities

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One priceless element of being in a true community is that feeling of being at home. Have you ever felt the comfort and freedom that comes with belonging to a deep, genuine group of friends? People are real. Masks are checked at the door. Weakness is okay, because weakness is a part of life, and community is a place of life.

Transparency is humbling and liberating, embarrassing and empowering. Transparency is necessary to being genuine. It also seems elusive; it can’t be manufactured, and it seems to appear when I least expect it. I have a beautiful friend who was part of a community I lived in and loved during college. She has always been an example of transparency to me, and several of her recent posts have made me realize that I took this honesty for granted. This honesty is a gift. Thank you, friend.

Heidi, Do you know why we’re friends? I remember walking into your room on our hall freshman year. I had a question about some US Government assignment. I didn’t know you at all, and never envisioned that one day we would actually be friends. I might have alluded to the difficulty of the assignment; I don’t remember. I only remember that you came out and bluntly said that it was a tough assignment and you were struggling through it. You were the first person at Wheaton who manned up and said something was difficult. The rest of us were still trying to be our high school perfectionist selves. You really surprised me, and I was immediately drawn to you.

And that was the beginning of some very great and powerful moments in my life. Times of laughter, baldly candid and vulnerable conversations, crossword puzzles, coffee dates. Living a bit of life together (when we could fit it into our ridiculously swamped schedules).

So, thank you, friend. I hope I become more like you as I keep growing up.

consuming experiences

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When I was a junior in college, I took part in a 10-day relief trip to Gulfport, Mississippi, with a dozen other Wheaton students. We spent our days shoveling dried mud and debris from houses that had been devastated by the floods following Hurricane Katrina. My team was surrounded , day in and day out, by horrific loss; yet, for a good number of us, it was one of the best weeks of our college experience. We actually felt guilty for laughing so much in the midst of such destruction. Those extremes of desolation and enjoyment of one another knit our group into a spontaneous and genuine community. These same people kidnapped me for a birthday bowling party 4 months later. We signed up for a business class just because one of our leaders taught it, and for the simple reason that we wanted to be together. It was a beautiful group of friends, borne of shared experiences and laughter and love.

In his book The Diving Commodity, Skye Jethani reprints an interview economist and author James Gilmore with several writers from Leadership Journal. Gilmore asserts that commerce has gone through three phases and is now in its fourth phase. The Agrarian Economy was followed by the Industrial Economy, which eventually gave way to the Service Economy. The newest economic era, according to Gilmore, is the Experience Economy. Think about it: what is Starbucks, exactly? I think it’s less about the product (coffee) than it is about the entire experience: jazz, comfy chairs, baristas who remember your name, conversations with friends, a place to play Scrabble and go on dates. I’m willing to shell out $4 for coffee because of the multi-sensory experiences there. (For the record: I’m a Caribou girl.)

I fully recognize that I am an active participant in this Experience Economy. I can’t tell you how many times someone from my group of friends in college would say to the rest, “Come on, guys. Let’s do something.” We all want to do, to see, to feel, to remember, to be humored and entertained and fed. We consume the experience of the coffee shop in a way that is perhaps more real than the physical consumption of the coffee itself.

My last couple of posts have had to do with community; it’s been on my mind, particularly because I’ve felt a lack of community in my life lately. And as I process the above thoughts on being a consumer of experiences, I have to wonder: does my hunger for experiences influence my desire for community? And if so, how? Is this lifestyle so completely ingrained in my behavior that I have become a consumer of community? Am I a consumer of relationships?

I still thank God for those ten wonderful days shoveling debris and gutting houses in Gulfport. As human beings, we are experiential people who are shaped by our circumstances and relationships and memories, and it felt like God spoke that language of shared experience when he gave us those unforgettable days together. But I think that the line between being experiential and being consumeristic can be very easily crossed. It’s the difference between enjoying something because it is good and demanding something because it meets your needs. I think. I can’t say I’ve thought through it all very well. I welcome your thoughts.

whatever happened to the front porch?

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As a little girl, I used to daydream the usual little-girl-daydreams: about my future husband, my wedding, my children, and my house. I could never really picture what my husband would look like; I didn’t really care about my wedding; I was pretty flexible regarding the kids (though I admit I wanted twelve after reading Cheaper By the Dozen…); but my house! My house had some very specific requirements. It needed a bay window, because that would be my reading spot. I needed my own bathroom (well, I’d let my husband use it), because I’d never had my own bathroom before. It needed multiple fireplaces, because no winter evening is complete without one, and certainly no Christmas morning. And it absolutely had to have a wraparound front porch, complete with hanging potted plants and rocking chairs like the ones at Cracker Barrel.

I have to admit I’ve altered my expectations a bit. I don’t think that, as a child, I took into account the fact that houses cost money. I don’t know if or when I’ll ever be a homeowner, or if I really want to deal with that responsibility. I’ve also realized that my tastes have changed a bit since I moved to the Midwest. (I was SHOCKED the day that I realized my favorite house on my drive to church is one that is shaped kind of like a barn.) I wouldn’t need a bay window or a private bath. But deep inside my little girl heart, I still want that front porch with its flowers and rocking chairs.

Ironically, my deeply rooted dream of front porch life might be the most difficult to grasp. Front porches are a thing of the past; they’ve been disappearing for years, and now most houses have a nice, screened in back porch and a tiny front stoop that serves no other purpose than to help frame a front door that is more decorative than functional. Most people go from work to car to garage to interior entrance, and if they venture outside it’s to their screened in back porch or fenced in backyard.

I was talking to a friend at church last night who told me that fenced in yards were barely in existence when he was growing up in the 60s. Communities formed and grew and thrived on front porches. I feel the loss of this even while I’ve never really known it. This poignant column recalls the days of the front porch community in his home town. While he believes his town is truly better now than it was when he was a boy, the absence of front porches (“this row of naked homes”) exemplifies a loss of trust and loving one’s neighbor. I think that communal trust and relationships are really what I want when I dream about that front porch of mine. So, friends, you’re invited (who knows how many years in advance) to enjoy friendship and breezes and iced tea on my front porch. I hope you’re build them, too. And I hope we’ll all learn how to be better neighbors.