Finding Real Community

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Living Stones Series: First Published in All Around Old Bridge Publication – August 2018

By Pastor Lloyd Pulley

After an aggressive knock on the door, a man who newly moved into his house was confronted. “You just bought yourself a lawsuit,” was his new neighbor’s abrupt introduction. Upon asking, the man found out his neighbor was bothered over a fence the previous occupant built a few feet over his property line.

Taken back, the newcomer softly replied, “No need to sue, I’d be happy to make this right and move the fence.” Shocked by this soft answer, the once irate neighbor stuttered, “Really? You will? Uh, well come to think about it, it’s not that big of a deal.”

What changed his mind? The kindness he encountered melted his heart, showed him his pettiness, and ended a decade-long battle with a previous neighbor. All it took was one person who was willing to listen and respond with kindness and thankfulness instead of hostility.

Maybe a story like this strikes a nerve in you because of an issue you have with a neighbor. According to a study by Homes.com, over 40% of Americans deliberately avoid their neighbors, with the highest rate of avoidance occurring in the Northeast. According to the General Social Survey, nearly one-third of Americans haven’t even met their neighbors.

Some may be fine with not knowing their neighbors because they maintain other close friendships, but even that gets tough in our busy world. Many have turned to social media and internet connections instead of face-to-face interaction to fill their social needs. The problem is that this can never replace looking people in the eyes and hearing their concerns as you stand in front of them.

The simulated, online community we can feel is like watching the Food Network; it can give you the image of something that can nourish you but it never really satisfies your needs.

When we take away the personal dimension of community, we cannot expect it to have the same quality. If a husband and wife simply treated each other life roommates, the missing dimensions of communication, intimacy, and connection would wind up hurting their marriage.

Our real need for community stems from the fact that we not very self-aware. I know for me, it is easy to come home and notice what is out of place, what has not been accomplished, and what is not quite right. Unfortunately, it is much harder for me to see what is wrong in me.

Few people see themselves clearly enough to know what really needs to be worked on in their life. This is why we need the perspectives of others to help guide us. Our juries have 12 people because we recognize that 1 perspective is not enough. It is healthy for us to have the encouragement that comes from others who are willing to tell us what may require some change in our lives.

Is this more of a challenge in Old Bridge? Many outsiders view Old Bridge as a commuter town, a place to catch some sleep between working in New York City and relaxing at the Jersey Shore. But Old Bridge is so much more than that.

In our town, so many vibrant communities are helping people meet the real needs they have. All kinds of groups we serve with are doing wonderful things to help our town. Even our food bank is not just a sterile place to get supplies but we regard it an honor to serve those in need who one day will be pouring into others.

Most of all, I believe the most meaningful community happens at church. If you are currently not part of a church, I would encourage you to consider becoming part of one. We’ve all had negative experiences with others before, but many good churches are out there that want you to welcome you, support you, and give you the community you need.

One way Calvary Chapel Old Bridge is working to create community is through our Movie In The Park event, coming up on Sunday, August 19th. Meeting at Geick Park, we’ll be hosting a day of family fun that begins at 5pm. There will be a free barbeque, playgrounds and games for kids, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and lots of friendly people looking to make you feel welcomed. Once we reach sunset, we’ll have an inflatable movie screen on one of the soccer fields with a family-friendly movie for you to enjoy.

In our world of busyness, cyber-friends, and shallow relationships, few things matter as much as community. By stretching out of your comfort zone, listening to a new point of view, and letting yourself be open with others, the community we all search for may be closer than you think.

Marj Lancaster