I took my place in the circle and looked around. Santa’s younger brother lounged to my right, followed by a guy whose smile would put a pep squad to shame. Next to him, a quiet nurse glanced over at a girl with more body art than a biker bar. And to complete the circle, an Emo conspiracy theorist took a seat by a bank vice president.
It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but no. The group was destined for Cambodia. This would be the first meeting meant to turn us from a stack of applications into a mission team.
The cynic in me thought maybe God had shuffled the deck wrong. They say variety is the spice of life, but this was a bit much. I mean, shouldn’t a successful group include members within a narrower range of … anything?
Apparently not, because as the weeks passed, we became more than a team. We became a community.
One element of that transformation was deceptively simple. Week by week, each of us took a turn to tell our story. We let each other into our lives. It sounds easy until you’ve got a dozen eyeballs staring while you stand there in your emotional skivvies. Much like having one’s work- in-progress (WIP) read by someone else.
But people can only care for as much of us as we will reveal. And nothing feels better than having the warmth of brotherly love wrapped around you, or your chapter, as the case may be. Not because it’s perfect, but because others see beauty in the labor and love invested.
The obvious other side of that coin is that when I got to know the others, my heart wrapped around them too. For our team, the composition of the circle changed to include a jolly, humble father. A reformed rebel who loves doing good. A quiet compassionate heart. A hilarious woman of God. An exemplary leader. And yeah, an Emo guy who will always be a conspiracy theorist. But, he’s my favorite conspiracy theorist.
The coolest thing was when we each became facets of a single entity, sharing pains and joys, strengths and weaknesses. Community is not in the similarities of the faces, or Voices, if you will. But in our willingness to drop the mask, be who we are, and love those around us.
Kimberly Buckner is president of ACFW Arkansas. Currently unpublished, she writes contemporary love stories and would choose laughter over tears every day of the week. She lives in Little Rock and spends entirely too much time and money at Panera, thanks to free refills of hazelnut coffee and free Wi-Fi.