"Where Everyone Knows Your Name..."
As I sit in a North Scottsdale Starbucks, I am reminded of how Starbucks is meant to exude a feeling of connectedness. The old comfy chairs, the soothing music, the aroma of coffee, customers reading books or doing work, the friendly barista who always remembers your name and drink order.
Its the familiarity of your own living room in a place where you are to feel that you belong and are known. Randomly, it reminds me of the lyrics to the theme song for the 1980s sitcom Cheers, “Where Everyone Knows Your Name”:
"Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn't you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go. Where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name. "
Isn’t that what we all long for? A place where “everyone knows our name?” A place where we are known, connected and we belong?
I believe that not only is it what we long for, but what we are made for.
We are made for connectedness. We are made for being known. We are made for community. It is why we frequent the Starbucks where our name and our coffee order are known, even if it is a little more out of the way. It is why we join social clubs, bowling leagues and churches.
In his book, Everybody’s Normal Until You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg writes, “No matter how little money we have, no matter what rung we occupy on anybody’s corporate ladder of success, in the end what everybody discovers is that what matters is other people. Human beings who give themselves to relational greatness- who have friends they laugh with, cry with, learn with, fight with, dance with, live and love and grow old and die with – these are human beings who live magnificent lives. When they die, not one of them regrets having devoted themselves to other people: their friends, their neighbors, their children, their family. Not one.”
In the opening chapters of the book of Genesis after God creates the heavens and the earth and calls it “good,” God creates humankind in God’s image and calls it good. And then God looks at this human who is alone and declares it “not good.” So God creates a helper, a partner, for “it is not good for humankind to be alone.” God has created us for community with one another.
Community, meaningful relationship, is life giving in the most literal sense. Research has shown that the most isolated people were three times more likely to die than those with strong relational connections. In other words, it's better to eat Twinkies with friends, than broccoli alone.
And so Jesus calls us into the kind of community where we pray for our enemies, worry about others when we have worries of our own, where we learn to become fully ourselves by giving ourselves prodigally to whomever needs us, to love our neighbors when an intelligent fourth grader can tell you that the way to get ahead in the world is to beat your neighbors to the draw every chance you get, to wash one another's feet when those kinds of tasks are dirty and humiliating. It's a strange kind of community, but one that also gives life.
I was reminded of this while spending some time this past week in Nashville, Tenn. A group from Pinnacle traveled to Nashville to work repairing and rebuilding homes that were damaged in the flood that occurred in 2010. We worked along side homeowners building floors, installing plumbing, helping them get their homes back in order restoring a piece of normal to daily life. We learned each others names, ate meals together, and shared in listening, encouraging, and sharing one another’s burdens and shortcomings. Why? Not just because it was a nice thing to do or because it makes us feel good, but because God made us for and calls us to this kind of community.
Jean Vanier, the founder of the world famous L’Arche community for the mentally handicapped and their helpers, wrote, “A community is not simply a group of people who live together and love each other. It is a place of resurrection.”