I got off work at 7 pm and did the thing where you chase the bus a little bit but then realize you won’t make it and walk sheepishly back to the bus stop. I’m already an hour late to Sunday night singing at the Lucy Stone Cooperative, a UU affordable housing co-op in Boston. I’m still ambivalent—I could go home to Netflix and grilled cheese. I could choose predictability and warm carbs. Or I could get on the bus to this community where I was first a member of the planning team and now a board member, this place where, despite my leadership role, I still find myself questioning whether and how I belong.
I give myself a little pep talk, reminding myself that I’m allowed to show up late and hungry and in need of a song. Reminding myself that being in community means offering care and being cared for, bringing my shiny self and my not-so-shiny self.
When I arrive, there’s a teapot of hot water and a plate of fat dates on the table. A friend presses a bowl into my hands and there’s broccoli soup. We sing “Amazing Grace”: “The wonders of accepting love have made me whole and real.”
Community is covenant. It’s the promise of a bowl of soup and a song at the end of the day. It’s love in the form of a house on Moreland Street that has said that it doesn’t matter that I don’t live there, that I too am welcome on Sunday nights. Laid bare, it is the succor and accountability of doing that thing together that we cannot do alone.
I’ve not always been my best self in the communities I’ve loved. I’ve shirked dish duty at Lucy Stone and missed weddings in my home town. I’ve dropped out when I was needed and showed up full of pettiness and exhaustion. The wonder of accepting love is only made evident when we’re allowed to shed the shiny and let the sourness show. Our communities of spirit are only real because we show up late expecting to be fed. Because we both give and get. Because we bring our tart and our sweet, our gifts and our struggles. We need lemon in the lentils, rice vinegar in the sushi, a squeeze of lime in the chelada, and some acid in our communities. Without it, our communities are superficial. With no acid, we are one-note, monotone. Our vulnerabilities, our bits of brokenness, bring life to our relationships.
We are part of community when we show up shiny and not-so-shiny. When we ladle soup into each other’s bowls and eat it eagerly. When we bring our sour and our sweet. When we shed the shiny and show up hungry.