There's a message I've been getting hit with hard recently. You know those times when it seems like the entire universe is trying to make a point?
After a conversation yesterday at church, I had a thought cross my mind, about the importance of community, of having people you can be authentic with who will be authentic with you. Yesterday being Wednesday, which is close to Thursday, (and tomorrow will be Friday, Friday) which is when I post stuff if I can, I was starting to mull over what I should post about. So, when this thought appeared, I thought "this would make a good blog post!" I started writing it down but then the service started. Our pastor asked us to start talking to the people around us ... about what goes well with french fries.
The church service I go to is called "The Garden" and, in keeping with the theme, every week there is a theme for us to "grow in". This week, the theme was french fries.
He picked french fries because of the tradition at this service: that anyone who wants to can join in a trek to a nearby burger joint for french fries (and fried zucchini - one of my new favorite snacks). We eat fries, talk about whatever topics come to mind (duck jokes, Freudian psychology, and woot shirts, to name a few). He named it as something we gather around to find community, just like friends go out for coffee, families come together for dinner and the like. (Talking to someone at lunch today about how my family always ate dinner together when I was growing up, and he strongly expressed his jealousy. It's something we all long for, I think.)
I started going to the service fairly recently. I was scared as heck but I knew I needed to try it. A year and a half into college and I still hadn't found a Christian community I was happy with (the people who tried to force community on me by reminding me of its "importance" certainly didn't help). I wanted to find a church but I'd only been to one and it was so far gone from my beliefs that I wasn't sure I could handle another church service I didn't agree with. A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to come to the nearby Methodist church with her, and I jumped on it. (Attending a new church is much easier with a friend, even if it isn't someone you've shared religion with much).
I loved the service but couldn't get myself up for another Sunday morning beyond those my job required of me. So when I heard about the Wednesday evening service, I was stoked. So the first Wednesday this semester, I dragged myself across the street to church. And loved it. And kept going back.
Then one week I was fed up with everyone asking me to come out for fries afterward... every week. So I pushed my homework schedule around and went. Spring break, I went again. Now I can't stop.
I've found something there that the on campus Christian group somehow failed to give me: people who care. People who have been through hell and are still somehow happy. Not "I'm a Christian, so all I need is Jesus to get me through" obligatory smiling mask that I get from a lot of people my age. True happiness, along with a true willingness to be open. I love when people care about me, but its a lot easier to be friends with people who let you do the same. And, though french fries, I found that community.
I read something a long time ago that college students should make sure to be a part of something off campus, because it will make college student issues seem smaller in comparison to the bigger world you sometimes forget is out there. They were right. When I hear my friends talk about convoluted custody issues and heart attacks and seizures, it hardly seems to matter that I can't get my computer to hook up to a printer. When I hear my friends talk about not being able to find a job post-graduation, the cover letter I'm editing is no longer a big deal.
Mostly, though, it just feels good to have that community. People who genuinely care about me. People I can genuinely care about. And people I know will usually be around on a Wednesday night to share fries (and fried zucchini) with me.
Maybe it really is like the book I'm reading says... I don't think it's a coincidence that, just this afternoon, I came across the line that said that sharing food, more than handshakes or, really, any other activity, forges the bonds of friendship.