In conversation with friends who’ve also lived in small communities, we’ve shared stories and chuckles. “Everybody knows everybody’s business,” was one remark, “and what they don’t know,” added another, “they make up.” We had a good laugh about that quip, knowing full well that it’s true. Case in point: one of the first rumors I heard about ourselves after moving to a very small town went like this: “They’ve got two boys.” True. What wasn’t true, however, was the pronouncement that they were adopted.
“What do you mean, adopted?!” I retorted. “I’ll have you know that I worked hard to bring those kids into the world!” Flabbergasted back then, I laugh about it now. What was true then, however, and I hope it still is, is the underlying care of these communities. Gossip and backbiting were laid aside when someone was in need.
A Google search turned up the following definitions: “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” No question but that definition stands; the other part is all about “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.” “Fellowship in spite of differences,” I silently added.
Many years later, I still think about those early days of community living (as defined in both sentences), and I realize that those two aspects are too often diametrically opposed to one another. Be they neighbourhood, family, workplace or sadly, church related acquaintances, in-depth community can be shattered by differences and the lack of determination to work through those differences. May we determine in our hearts to promote true fellowship.
“Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (MSG)