Most of the time, building community happens in the background. But every once in a while, the connections are so tangible, the relationship building so apparent, that it’s as if the Holy Spirit employed bricklayers and brought the mortar.
For five years, I’ve invited the women of our church for a brunch. We always have enjoyed the time together but yesterday, the gathering of 25 or so women was special.
The group was composed of women from two churches, about 45 minutes apart, in two states, two dioceses and two provinces. Some knew each other well, but for others, this was their first meeting.
After quiche and tea, we exchanged small gifts. Before each present was unwrapped, each person shared a short love story.
Almost instantly, the circle became a safe place. Some women shared the moment they met their spouse-to-be. Others talked about a special pet that kept them from being alone.
One woman talked about the recent death of her sister. Her nephew is 38, with the mental age of a six-year-old. The last of his eyesight causes him to cock his head to the side, so he can see fuzzy images through his peripheral vision. His mother laughed: “He’s got his eye on me.”
On the day of her sister’s funeral, the woman took her nephew out to dinner. Everyone had encouraged her to take him to a group home. The best place for him, really, they said. As they waited in the crowded room, the woman noticed her nephew searching frantically until his one good eye found her.
That’s when she knew. She was the one for him. He had his eye on her. This was her love story.
Another woman talked about a near-fatal accident. Her mother visited in the hospital every day for nine months. One woman talked of her sister, who was born blind. Their family always took special care of her.
But when the woman was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was her blind sister who took care of her, making sure there was food every day, supporting and encouraging her. This was her love story.
In that room, there were conservatives and liberals. Women just engaged, and women who had buried their husbands long ago. Conservatives and liberals, rich and poor.
But by sharing their stories, they became a community. And that’s a love story too.