Reflection: Community

Relocating one’s life to a new place can be terrifying. You leave everything you know and recognize, to create from scratch a new normal, with the hope that a peaceful rhythm will develop, where everyone’s needs are met, new opportunities are seamlessly incorporated into routine, and eventually, the world will stop feeling like it is moving at light speed. When I was young and only had myself to worry about, I jumped in feet first and trusted that everything would fall into place. It usually did, and when it didn’t, I learned to pivot. With our fledglings in tow, the moves became more complicated, with more moving parts and more feelings to consider. Because I was always leaving a community that I counted on for companionship and support, I was eager to begin building my new community to fill in the gaping holes that the move had quarried open. With each move, I can recount nearly every person that has extended one of those initial tree branches out to me. They didn’t have to do this. They could have turned their back, contented with the community they already had access

But they didn’t, and that made all the difference.

I like meeting new people. I enjoy hearing about their experiences, and yes, I am one of those people on an airplane that tends to talk to the human sitting next to me. But thankfully (to those around me), I pay attention to cues, and am more than happy to put on my headphones and leave my co-travelers in peace if they so desire it. This world can be lonely and isolating, and I think there are many who enjoy making a connection if the opportunity arises. Listening to people’s stories is a bit like reading a book, but with the added benefit of banter. I am not the neuroscientist (that would be my daughter), but according to The Neuroscience of Conversations (Glaser, 2019), “As we communicate, our brains trigger a neurochemical cocktail that makes us feel either good or bad, and we translate that inner experience into words, sentences, and stories. ‘Feel good’ conversations trigger higher levels of dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, and other biochemicals that give us a sense of well-being. The millions of minute- by-minute neurochemical reactions within our brains drive our states of mind. These states of mind shape our relationships every day, affecting the way we communicate to build trust with Others”.

Trust and distrust are mediated by two separate areas of the brain: trust by the prefrontal cortex and distrust by the amygdala (Dimoka 2010). The way that I see it, finding and building a community begins with a conversation, which can then lead to trust, which is a building block of knowing that “I am safe, and I am not alone”. So, the next time a stranger strikes up a conversation with you on an airplane, or helps you carry a heavy bag to your car, or compliments you on those earrings you are wearing, that stranger might not just be trying to talk to you but may also be unknowingly attempting to lower their cortisol and increase their feel-good hormones. That’s some good neuroscience there, and isn’t that lovely?

Oh Lord, forgive me for how I sometimes forget to love others, especially strangers, in simple

ways that honor You. Help me recognize opportunities to share the love You have given me

with someone else who needs to feel Your love. Allow me to be Your hands and Your feet. In

your name we pray. Amen


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