My running group. When my doctor and his coworker decided to start their own independent practice, they also started a running group. They invited people to come walk and run with them on Saturdays, whether that meant walking a few miles or following a training plan for our local marathon. I started running with the group about a year and a half ago, but with the depth of relationships that have been developed, it feels like I must have been meeting with them longer than that. Regardless of ability or goal, everyone is welcome, and welcomed enthusiastically whether they come once a year or once a week. I have been touched by the way others have supported me (and literally run alongside me) and the opportunities I have had to do the same. The way we encourage, commiserate, and celebrate together is truly special.
My coworkers. My coworkers feel like family in a daily sort of way. We know when someone has something exciting going on or when someone is sick or having a bad day. We know each others’ strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. We’re there to back each other up or to push through together when we’re all exhausted and nothing seems to be going well. I always know where the hugs are when I need them… even if it means quite literally pulling a friend into a hug without saying anything else at all.
My community group (Bible study). When I go to my community group, it feels like home: the familiar faces, tea, and antique chairs. It’s made up of people who have heard and prayed me through some of my darkest struggles, and who have shared some of their darkest and most taxing struggles with me. We know the back story when someone shares the next “phase” of a prayer request. It’s a safe place, not only because of the room for honesty, but also the room for questions, doubts, and disagreements, all with low risk of judgment.
There are several common themes in these three examples, but there are three I want to pull out:
- different ages, experiences, and perspectives: each of the groups I mentioned above are made up of people of all different ages, backgrounds, and phases of life
- regularity: for each group, there’s a consistent, defined time and reason to connect
- openness: while I may not have made this clear above, in thinking about these groups, I have realized that each is completely open to welcoming new people and eager to authentically engage them