1. It is a seed of life that will grow and flourish
Are we not all called to share life together to some degree? I think we are. In my neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma, I have come to see a shared life with my friends there as a true gift from God. It is a seed of life that will grow and flourish over time.
2. We need friends to both celebrate and cry with us
It is nice to be connected to other people of faith who care for the place we inhabit together. Shared life will sustain us through life. When we have good times, we need friends to celebrate with us. When we have bad times, we need friends to cry with.
3. Keeps us from becoming isolated, disconnected and depressed
Life is a mystery and we need to live in relationship with others or we will easily become isolated, disconnected and depressed. The pain we all experience in life will destroy us all if we are not committed to a place, where we live in the context of shared life with friends who care for us as human beings instead of objects.
4. We show our love for God through our love for others
For years I have studied the life and work of Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. After years and years of loving the poor and trying to live in faithful service to God, she shares at the end of her autobiography The Long Loneliness:
“The only answer in this life, to the loneliness we are all bound to feel, is community. The living together, working together, sharing together, loving God and loving our brother, and living close to him in community so we can show our love for Him.”
I have experienced a lot of pain and disconnection in life. My college experience was a common one, I believe, for many of us. Central Washington University is where I chose to study to become a teacher. As I moved to Eastern Washington to a little town called Ellensburg, I did not know very many people there or the place I was moving to.
The several years that I lived there, I became connected to the students at the school. Surrounded by lots of people on a daily basis, I had developed many connections with others. It was a sad day for me when I graduated and moved back to Western Washington, because I was pretty much alone again. It seemed like I was starting over. All my relational connections in everyday life were gone.
Being uprooted from my college experience and moving on to become a professional left me extremely lonely. After moving to Kent, Washington, where I knew hardly anyone except for some family members, I was out in the world on my own. I was now a professional teacher and I started working for a school district.
But I didn’t like it very much. It wasn’t really what I thought it would be. Monday through Friday I went to work, and mostly stayed in my apartment the rest of the time. Depression and loneliness soon began to overwhelm me as I started to sleep a lot. I was extremely disconnected from relationships with others.
After struggling for about a year, I slowly began to see my need to take some initiative in the relationships around me. When I started to open up to relating with others, I began a process of healing within myself. And this has led me to who I am today. For many of us, it seems like college is the closest experience we will ever have of sharing life with others in everyday life. And yet college is very temporary. When it is over, we often feel disconnected and lonely.
In our early years, we all enter a very communal experience through elementary school, if we stay at the same school. We are with the same students all year in the same classroom. There is quite a bit of shared life in the classroom. It is a little different in middle school and high school in that we have many different classes and teachers, but it is still very much an experience of shared life with peers.
That’s why some people say our high school days are the best days of our lives because most of us will never share life with that many people again the rest of our lives. When those days are over many of us go to college and then get married, work a career, buy a house and often have little connection to any real community life. We are a lonely society that has been disconnected from shared life with others. How sad it all is. But we have tasted little bits of its potential through our years in school.
5. We become fully attentive to our situation
Norman Wirzba points out so elegantly, “We live in a broken and wounded world and in a culture that encourages isolation and fragmentation. But from a practical standpoint, the desire for wholeness means that we make our local community and habitat, the native network of relationships that directly feed and nurture us, the focus of sustained attention… This is not so that we can avoid what is foreign, different, or exotic. It is rather so that we can see more clearly and understand with greater honesty the requirements, limits, and potential of our life together. It is so that we can become fully attentive to our concrete situation, celebrate the gifts that we are to each other, and take responsibility for our collective needs.”
What keeps us from shared life together?