Liking people is not the same as being part of a community

Some years ago 3 young, good looking people entered my class in a community college. They seem to know each other, worked in the same place, similar age and obviously they wanted to spend their leisure time learning Spanish. In my culture it implies some kind of friendship, maybe not the deepest kind, but some.

I was completely shocked when, weeks later, I realized that they where far from being friends, they were merely acquaintances. They came together but they weren’t friends. Is that even possible? I tried to hide my confusion and decided not ask questions. But in my mind it was clear: this is weird, is it the usual practice around here?. They were not what I thought they would, so I felt insecure about the whole situation. I didn’t want to be disrespectful nor indiscreet, so I went for the smile and nod thing til the end of the semester.

I am an individualist person raised in a collectivist culture (or as I call it, a dysfunctional latina), but I have to say those situations put me in sinking sand, because if people are together, seem to like each other but there’s not even a small amount of friendship, I don’t know how to interact with them.

This week talking with a group of ladies (from individualistic backgrounds) wanting to help collectivist groups of people, made me realize a couple of things. Offering individual help to collectivist people is not going to work. Only communities can reach communities. That led me to my second discovery. My team and I work together, but we are far from any kind of relationship. We smile to each other, we hug, but when the work is done we go separate ways. We won’t talk again in weeks, we only send reminders about appointments. I’m not saying we have to be bff’s and go shopping together, but I’m afraid it looks like people coming together few hours and then living separate lifes.

We all have busy schedules, and mine is probably the craziest. But I’ve been using the “this is how they do it around here” as an excuse to keep people at arms length. It’s definitely the easiest thing to do. But all this situation reminded me that I need to go back to my roots. I know how to create a good, warm (sort of) atmosphere. It’s what I do in my classes! If not, why then coming Saturday after Saturday for 5 hours to learn Spanish for the last 3 years? Is not because the love grammar, that’s for sure.

What if I’m in that team to share my experience as teacher and create a different, more united, ministry atmosphere? What if my background empowers me to be the glue and bring people together? What if people outside church only see a bunch of people coming together a couple of hours a week but living separate lifes the est of the week? No one wants to smile and nod on Sundays, and go back to your loneliness the rest of the week. No one.

Only redeemed communities reach broken communities.

John 17: 11