Remember the theme song to the hit TV show “Cheers”? Part of the chorus is, “You wanna go…where everybody knows your name.”
What the song and the show captured so well is something called community. Community is living in vital connectedness with others and it is what you and I were created for.
In his book, “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them” , John Ortberg writes about the need we all have for deep relationships, or community.
Nothing can substitute for the life-giving benefits of connecting with others. We were created for relationships. And not just the “Hello, how are you-I’m fine” kind. No, we all have a deep desire to know and be known, to love and be loved. This can only happen in relationships. And there is no substitute. Not money, not a career, not achievement, not busyness, not books. No substitute will fill the need in you for human relationships. Edward Hallowell (Sr. Lecturer at Harvard Medical School ) says that connection or community is the sense of being part of something that matters, something larger than us.
In fact, this may be a life or death issue. A very thorough research project on relationships headed by a Harvard social scientist, called the Alameda County Study, tracked the lives of 7,000 people over nine years. Research showed that the most isolated people were three times more likely to die than those with strong relational connections were. Even people with unhealthy habits (such as smoking or poor eating habits) but strong social ties lived significantly longer than people who had a healthy lifestyle but were isolated.
People who seek to live for themselves alone, according to Deitrich Boenhoeffer, “plunge into the bottomless pit of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.” And obviously don’t live as long either.
But our society is becoming more and more disconnected from each other. According to some research, the level of community in this nation is at its lowest point in our lifetimes. The results are lower performance in education, more teen pregnancy, greater depression, and higher crime rates.
Our need for community is to the human spirit what food, air, and water are to the human body.
So, how do we build these kinds of life-giving friendships that we all long for?
I’ll write about that in my upcoming posts.