How Can We Fight For Community When We Are Apart?

David Laureta

March 19, 2020

In the last week and a half, we have witnessed one escalation after another. COVID-19 made its presence felt and caused certain areas of the nation—and of the world, too—to pause. With more cities and provinces under community quarantine, many of us find ourselves confined strictly to our homes.

I’m pretty sure that at this point you’ve already explored every area of your home as advised—haha!—and you find yourself holding your phone as usual as you read this. To the graduating, you and your phone will graduate. Hold on just a little bit longer. To the rest of us, so much time has been freed up.

With all the free time in our hands, you realize you can only do so much at home. The series you’ve been binge-watching will end. The games you’ve been playing with, you might get tired of them eventually. The books you’ve been wanting to finish will conclude.

It’s so easy to get lost in all the things we do just to occupy ourselves or to destress. Time flies. There seems to be a pressing need to reconnect with your friends or to regularly check on them, but doing so online seems too artificial. Can we truly find authentic and meaningful communities online? Will the lack of face-to-face communication prevent us from feeling the sense of community we have with each other?

 

Community and Communication

Let’s look at the origin of communication and community to answer these questions. What’s similar about the words community and communion? It’s the root word communis, which means “familiar, accessible, universal, ordinary.”

By this definition, communitas or “community” is a group of people who are united by something common, familiar, or universal in terms of activity or identity. When these people share, fellowship, or participate together, they find themselves in communion.

Community is no longer just in the physical space but in the virtual one as well, thanks to social media. You and others could be from different parts of the world, yet be part of one community.

Lately, however, “community” has been associated with “quarantine,” and ironically, we may be dwelling on the quarantine (a.k.a. isolation) part a little too much, even in our relationships.

These aren’t normal times. Changes that happen and the news we hear about every day can get overwhelming. We are, by nature, social beings, but sometimes it’s just tempting to ride the wave of isolation. Community sometimes feels like a burden more than a gift. It feels like we’ve been too accessible and everything is too familiar and ordinary. The isolation is oddly refreshing.

Yet apart from community is also where we are most vulnerable. How then do we fight for community, for our being together, while we are physically apart?

There is no community without communication. 

“Communicate” comes from communicare, meaning “to share.” Communicare is the Latin verb form of the noun communis, which means that community and communication are interrelated. It also means that without “sharing” there is no opportunity for “common” to arise.

Be it via video chat, group chat, memes, or calls, keeping in touch regularly is a way to fight for being together. Fighting for being together makes it easier for us to stay together, too.

The early Christians also experienced isolation and other threats to their community during the persecution under the Roman Empire. Here was God’s encouragement to His people:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24,25

It was in being together that they got through trying times. They continued to meet together. They encouraged one another continually. They even helped push one another to love and to serve. Stirring up one another, meeting together, encouraging one another—all these are possible through communication. Communication always has the other in mind.

Yes, being and staying together was a burden, yet they saw community as a gift as they served one another. They emerged more united, and their faith grew stronger. The echoes of that faith and unity are felt even until today.

Communication is key. It is also the key that will keep us from being locked away in our isolation. How do we prevent being overwhelmed in isolation? Here are some ways:

1. Check in

One way I’ve made sure that I regularly get to check on other students is through food. I ask them to check in using the hashtag #CheckInAdobo because hey it’s food! You can be creative in how you check on others. Here, consistency is the key.

2. PM is the (other) key

No, you’re not selling anything. However, a PM/DM (private message or direct message for those who live under a rock—joke!) at least once or twice a week would do. Have they finished binge-watching? Have they completely explored their home? How are their Adorable Home pets? Have they finally figured out how many grains are there in a 3-in-1? Have they finished a book from the Bible?

3. Call

If the data or internet connection permits, try video calling with them. We are all experiencing what LDRs feel like. There’s just something about hearing people speak and not just seeing them write words. Budget your load wisely, of course!

4. Migrate online

What are the weekly things you do with other people? Be it small groups, prayer meetings, mentorings, hangouts, or others alike, explore the possibility that it can still be done, just online. There was a regular rhythm or consistency before all of this. It doesn’t have to end during this stretch.

5. Watch party 

Again if data or internet connection permits, you could try watching things together. There are websites (Google Hangout or Discord) that allow for screen viewing. Watch together, eat together, and talk after, just like you usually do, but from the safety of your own home.

6. Dream together

Engage in deep conversations. What would you want the world to look like as you pursue and reach your dreams? The beauty of community is being united in pursuit of a common goal or set of goals. And now, you have time!

What hopes do we have for our family? For our community? For our nation? Dreams may die, but it doesn’t mean new ones can’t be birthed.

What if you use this time to rekindle a dream or a passion within you? Or rekindle that of your friends? Who knows if one day that passion could help change the world.

 

As I end, here’s something to think about:

The fight for community has its answer in plain sight. In the phrase “community quarantine”, “community” comes first before “quarantine.” If we follow the order, together with its definition, we’ll emerge better than we were before!

 

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The Author

David Laureta

David is a Laker-lifer and a full-time campus missionary at Every Nation Campus Katipunan. He loves to eat, to play and analyze sports, lip sync in groceries, and cover all these in his IG stories.

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