The Beauty of Community

In most ways, the first semester of my senior year has thus far been wonderful —it’s been great to be back in the residence hall surrounded by dear friends, and I love my classes. What hasn’t been so great?  Probably all the things that have broken down during the first month of school: first my car, then my printer, and more recently, me (at least, physically, if not so much mentally…though some might beg to differ). It all started several weeks ago with a painfully swollen joint in my toe, followed by a case of asthmatic bronchitis and a sinus infection. Being sick has been difficult—feeling bad isn’t exactly a good study aid—but the Lord has used my extended illness both to teach me compassion and to show me what a caring, loving community surrounds me.

Excited about our new hall decorations on the second floor of Kennedy Residence Hall.

It’s far easier to be impatient with others, or to be annoyed by the person in the back of the room coughing up a lung (for the past few weeks that’s been me), when you haven’t walked in their shoes before. Health is something we tend to take for granted—a sort of right we tend to demand—when the reality is that every day of good health is an immense blessing and God’s grace to us. How quickly I forget that! But God’s mercies also come in other forms, including that of physical weakness. And whether that physical weakness takes the form of a broken bone, a lingering illness, or a chronic disease, God will use those hardships in our lives for our good—to make us more like Christ—if we seek Him in the midst of them. Easier said than done, yes? In addition to giving me a renewed sensitivity to the physical trials of others, God has used my bouts of illness to humble me in ways I wouldn’t have expected.

Over course of last few weeks, friends have cared for me in so many ways—opening doors for me, carrying things for me, giving me cards and chocolate, asking how I am every day for weeks straight. Just in the last two weeks, different friends have given me cherry juice, dried cherries, cough drops, cranberry juice, ibuprofen (when I ran out and wasn’t mobile enough to easily get more), vitamin C tablets, lemons, a vaporizer, and crutches. Two friends have even carried me, and others have offered to do so. Talk about being humbled by the selfless service and sacrifice of others! The experience has been a powerful portrait of what it looks like when others are the hands and feet of Jesus—the body of Christ made manifest in our lives.

Our fabulous SLAs sketched scenes from classic literature and then gave crayons to everyone on the hall…such fun! Here I’m coloring a drawing of Edmund and the White Witch.

God has graciously provided friends to literally and figuratively carried me through these past couple of weeks of physical trial, and at one point after I broke down in tears, my sweet roommate assured me that she was happy to do anything I needed her to do—that it was a joy to serve me, because she loves me. (This after she’d carried my laundry up and down the stairs for me and walked to a nearby store to get me ibuprofen.) More recently, said roommate has had her sleep interrupted nightly for two weeks by my violent, constant coughing attacks—and when I apologize for keeping her awake, she cheerily replies, “Oh it’s all right,” and says with a teasing twinkle in her eye, “I know you aren’t doing it for your own amusement!” What a blessing to be surrounded by friends who love and care for me even when I’m unlovable. Don’t we all need community like that?