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Usha and Mercy
Kisumu - Kenya

IN HIS FOOTSTEPS

NO 5 April 2006
Scripture reading: Acts 2: 43-47; Acts 4: 32-36;

REDISCOVERING A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
INTRODUCTION

In the Leprosy Mission in India, in most places, we live and work together in a community. Being in a community gives us a sense of belonging. We know that we belong to a large, extended family. Just like in our own families, this sense of belonging gives us security; helps us to know that we are loved and cared for, and are appreciated for who we are. It is this sense of belonging that helps us to be creative and compassionate; that allows us to trust each other and give of our best. Sometimes, as in our own families, this sense of belonging breaks down. It breaks down when we put our own desires and needs before anyone else’s. Or when we are envious and jealous of another person’s talents and gifts, or when we seek power and rights for ourselves alone. When our sense of belonging breaks down, we feel alone and insecure. We feel that nobody understands or appreciates us. Feelings of isolation and insecurity block creativity and prevent us from doing our work to the best of our abilities. When our sense of belonging breaks down, it affects community life badly.

Why do we need this community life? Why is it important for a Christian institution today to be seen to be living together in harmony as a community?

Our scripture readings tell us that the early Christians lived together as a community, sharing, caring, and loving each other in the way that Jesus had taught them to do. So much so, that those looking at them remarked that what held the Christians together was love. It was this love that drew others to them. It is the same teachings and the same love that should hold us together and draw those who are suffering, who are in pain or need, to us too.

LISTEN WITH YOUR HEART

To some people the word community gives comfort, strength and a sense of belonging. A place of shared values and goals. To others, the same word does not mean anything because they have not experienced the warmth and security that a community can give. Warm and caring communities do not just happen. They are built by people who believe that living together in love, respect, and unity bring fulfillment and meaning both to their lives and that of others.

My friend Dr Sreenivas shared with me this story. It was September 11th, 2001 and he was on his way to New York for a conference. They had no idea of the bombing of the twin towers in New York and for security reasons were told that their plane had to take a different route. They found themselves in a small Canadian town called Gander. It was freeing cold when they landed and none of them had warm clothes. As it was a flight from Indian many of the people were vegetarian and elderly couples on their way to visit children and grandchildren. On hearing of their arrival, the local community had got together and made a list of all the things people in this emergency situation might need and put them together. They gave each visitor to Gander a large bag with everything from toothpaste to sweaters. They had also made special arrangements for the elderly and the physically challenged. Realising that they had several vegetarians in their midst, they prepared special meals too, although this was quite new and difficult for them. “ This was my first experience of such a caring community, “ said Dr Sreenivas. “ Throughout our stay here we were not treated like stranded passengers, but as beloved family. People came to talk to us and listen to us as we were feeling very agitated as nothing was under our control. They went out of their way to be caring and shared not only material things, but also their concern, and love with us. “

GO AND DO LIKEWISE

Although community is a collective group of men, women and children, it is made up of individuals. Each of us is responsible for the character of our communities. If any one of us is rude, selfish or greedy, our community will become full of arrogant, discontent people. If we are prejudiced or partial to some only, we are likely to be a divided community.

Just as each one of us needs to have a vision and goals for ourselves, every community needs to have one as well. To live a fulfilling and meaningfully life, we need to have hopes and goals as a family, as a neighbourhood, as small units in our work places, and as larger communities in institutions. This can only happen if we believe in and actively work toward “communion” with each other. We can do this by breaking down the walls we build to keep each other out; by talking to each other about our hopes for the future and what is really important to us. And by taking responsibility for each other. A good community grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are here not just for ourselves, but for each other.

FOR YOU TO THINK AND DISCUSS

  • What aspects of community life attracts you?
  • How important is your community at work for you?
  • What two things can you do to build or strengthen your community?

FOR YOU TO MEDITATE ON

Lord, you have set us in families so that we won’t be lonely,
And given us larger families in communities to work with.
But often we don’t appreciate our families or the communities we work in.
We allow our desire for power and unhealthy ambition
to ruin the best friendships.
We allow prejudice and envy
to eat into our everyday relationships.
We allow pride and greed to foster discontent.
Grant us the wisdom to see that it is in living together in harmony,
And through loving and caring and sharing
That we create your kingdom here on earth.

USHA JESUDASAN - ushajesudasan@gmail.com

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