If you were to ask me how I felt about community sometime this summer, I would have responded with a heavy sigh and probably somewhat of an eyebrow raise. Then I would have proceeded to share how my heart has felt really broken and lonely in regards to deep, heart-filling community. Traditionally, I picture community as a tight knit group of 4-6 people who know each other deeply, ask all the right questions, laugh together, cry together, speak the truth in love when necessary, and above all encourage one another. In a perfect world, this group would meet together frequently to catch up, lift each other up and read the word of God together. Sounds beautiful doesn’t it? When it happens like this, it is epic. But, what I’ve learned over the past couple of years is, community does not need to be picture-perfect to be impactful.
Over the past week I participated in an Instagram challenge hosted by a network called The Rising Tide Society whose motto is “community over competition.” Their goal is to help creatives and entrepreneurs change their mindsets from being competitors to colleagues. And this week, they encouraged this mentality through an Instagram challenge. Not only were we schooled on tips and tricks of how to share more effectively on Instagram, we were challenged more importantly to reach out and encourage our fellow creatives. In an app world, where a lot of times it feels like a competition to post the coolest pic, get the most likes, and have the most beautiful feed that is sure to gain more followers, the Rising Tide Society flipped the purpose. Challenges ranged all over the map from sharing our morning routine, to a recent piece of our work, to a glimpse into our passions - all with the hopes of sharing who we were and connecting with others.
If you’ve been following along on my Instagram, you might’ve seen that Friday’s challenge was to highlight a fellow creative who has been an inspiration. There was no question in my mind that I wanted to introduce my sweet friend Natasha; she is an amazing woman of God, a small business owner, a wife, mama of 2 adorable littles, and a constant champion for community. I’ve never met Natasha in real life, yet the Lord has grown our friendship through the internet. We met thanks to The Influence Network and got to know each other more through google chats, text messages, and Instagram. And I am so so thankful. Natasha loves on me when I’m discouraged, inspires me to go for my dreams, and encourages me to lean into the Lord through it all.
I loved being able to share about, and encourage my friend Natasha - and it was so great to see every feed in the #instatidechallenge full of love for other creatives. But here's what really got me - after posting about Natasha on my feed, I went to my notifications and saw that a new insta-friend, Devyn Mollica, shared about me on her post! I was blown away. Devyn and I have never met in real life; our relationship exists solely inside the walls of Instagram (which I hope to change asap). But, she so sweetly shared about how I have inspired her through the words I have shared on my Instagram feed! I was so pleasantly surprised, and so so encouraged.
Feeling incredibly blessed by Devyn’s words I realized, community doesn’t have to be a tight-knit, knees touching as you squeeze onto the couch to share your hearts sort of thing. All it takes is a group of like-minded individuals encouraging one another and lifting each other up. And that, can be fostered anywhere; inside a photo-sharing app, through Facebook, google chat, or inside the four walls of a house.
If you struggle with disappointment in community can I challenge you to dig a bit deeper? Maybe you don’t have five really good friends who live within 20 minutes and get together every month... but, maybe you have 3 really great friends that you met online. You don't see them every day, but they are a constant source of encouragement with every text you exchange. Or maybe you just realized you have a connection with like-minded individuals through the gym, your work, or a group like the Rising Tide Society, who live the motto “community over competition”. Or maybe your mom, dad, and sister are your greatest advocates. Even though these circles may not fit into your picture-perfect idea of community, give them the credit they deserve, allow them to re-define your idea of community.
Whatever shape or form it make take, finding a group of like-minded people who encourage one another and lift each other up is so valuable. I am so thankful for the Rising Tide Society challenge. For the way it challenged my thinking and encouraged me to step further in pursuit of community. Although it might seem hard to come by, community is really simple to foster; and it all starts with you. Double click that random person’s pic on Instagram, leave a little love, or maybe step out like Devyn and make someone’s day by sharing sweet words of encouragement. That’s the beginning friends, and it’s all up to us.