I sit in the middle of Rough Edges looking at the people surrounding me, some are homeless, others recently housed, and others that have been housed for some time but are in search of community. I have a slight sense of anxiety welling inside of me. They all look at me with a hint of excitement in their eyes and one of the patrons I’m closest with counts them in.
“1… 2… 3…” She says with a cheeky grin on her face. She knows how awkward this is making me feel.
“Happy Birthday too you” they start to sing I look around the room as more people who are at the service begin to join in on the song while others, more withheld sit back and smile at the amusement going on. The song seems to take forever, I want to disappear and suddenly I can’t find a way to sit that seems natural. Despite all of this, there is a large undeniable part of me that is really enjoying it.
As much as I feel awkward, an overwhelming feeling of belonging floods my mind as I see that these amazing people with all the troubles and tribulations they have experienced are so hell bent on celebrating me. They sing until the words run out and a few people come past and pat my shoulders as a sign of appreciation. I smile now not because I feel awkward but because I feel something different about this place.
I feel a part of it.
I have been celebrated by it and therefore I find myself with a strong sense of attachment to the people in this place. I am one of them and they have me.
What makes a good community, what is it that draws people together? Why is it that our human nature is to form groups and, in those groups, what is it that makes us feel like we are some how attached to each other?
The funny thing is that it is not simply the celebration happening for me that makes me feel connected here but the celebration I have held for others that makes me feel all the more a member of this community.
You see friends I have seen reason to celebrate the people here. I have yelled and jumped in to a big man hug to the excitement of a patron avoiding a prison sentence, I have solemnly high fived a lady who had been on there way to breaking an addiction. I have laughed along with patrons as they deliver side-splitting stories of past experiences. These times are the ones where I can honestly look around and say “I belong here.”
It is in these celebrations that make me feel like I have shared something. We have built something, a connection here that is not easily broken. I have spoken about empathy being the ability to suffer along with someone but that would leave out one of the best parts of empathy. The ability to celebrate with someone. To experience their joy as they achieve even if it is just another year gone.
I can see from where I stand the amazing thing that happens when you share excitement for someone else. When we can say to a person that the good things you have, the things you count as success are worthy of my excitement. I see a reason to shout and scream and jump around and it is what you have achieved for yourself.
Psalm 139:14 says “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; My soul knows it well.”
I believe the same God that made me, made you, made those that serve at Rough Edges and those that receive there. I believe that not only are they made by one God we were made with joy and excitement by a God who fearfully put us together piece by piece in a wonderful process. I believe this is worth celebration.
So indeed, I can celebrate for them and they can celebrate for us, and it is place like that, where no one will know which is which.