There are times to be alone and times to be with others and we all have our tolerances of both ends of this spectrum of need to be or not to be with others. That said, being social has been shown to be a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle and those that are part of a social network, e.g. community tend to live longer. OK so much for the technicalities of the thought. If you are divorced and lose your network in the process as I did, finding a new one at middle age can be a challenge. And, if your family lives on the other side of the country or retires and moves away, the situation can be even more challenging.
Thus establishing community is something that one must go after. Like many things, unless you work in a place where you can make friends that you see outside of work, and thus have a built in community, you have to consciously want to open yourself up to the opportunity to engage. As I’ve just mentioned, the workplace is one environment conducive for establishing relationships but it can be fraught with difficulties if “friends” becomes more than just friends. But that’s a different discussion.
Another good environment is one’s place of worship or natural locations of social interchange such as church, synagogue groups, or local Meetups.
A couple weeks ago I decided to attend a gathering at a local church even though I’m not Christian. The program included a potluck dinner, time for social interchange but also focused on seeing a movie about wild horses followed by a discussion session. I found the location easily and joined a table that wasn’t yet full. As it turned out, the group at this particular table was mostly from Peru, Bolivia and Columbia as well as a few regulars from the U.S. Having been to Peru, I had some small talk to offer to the conversation although I did feel a little awkward not knowing anyone. They were, however, very welcoming and did their best to be inclusive. I found their attitude quite impressive. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised, after all, it was a church group and by its very nature, their perspective is to offer “love” to all. It was a nice experience for me after having gone to some other more secular groups that were more catty where I felt left out. Age, background, etc. weren’t important to these people. It was quite refreshing.
Then I had a really big surprise. When one said her birthday was coming up on March 25, I said that it was my birthday also! Next, one of the ladies said they (those that knew each other) were planning to gather at a local restaurant to celebrate the birthday and I was invited. I was overwhelmed! I barely knew these people and here they were inviting me to a party!
Well, true to form, I got a call a few days later from Rosie inviting me to a gathering on Sat. March 23 at 6:30 pm. The timing was good since I was attending an ARE Program on Soul Growth at the Unity Church which was finished at 4:30. By the time I left the program and ran a few errands I was able to go to the restaurant right on time and meet the group for dinner. All in all there were 14 people with 3 birthday people including myself. I came to learn that this group tried to get together monthly and used birthdays as a way to do it. It was a lovely evening including having “Happy Birthday” sung to me both in English and in Spanish.
I wish I could say that my own family did as much for me when I went to visit the week before. Yes, we did go out to dinner once while I was there but it lasted an hour (family drama was involved). So without dwelling on the details, I’ll just say that the old adage that we can’t pick our families (unless you’re talking at the soul level) but we can pick our friends certainly applies. And in this situation, community certainly found me!