The Collegian
Monday, April 15, 2024

A love letter to community

<p>Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian</p>

Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian

It's not good for man to be alone. That’s why community exists. 

In college, we encounter more opportunities to engage with our community than we likely will in our entire lives. Not only is community more accessible to us as students on campus, but we are routinely encouraged to embrace it. 

From the dozens of tables that line up every year during SpiderFest to the endless rotation of flyers posted in Tyler Haynes Commons, community knocks on each of our doors, hoping we’ll let it in. 

However, how many of us choose to answer? 

Community can be rare these days. Yes, it is often presented to us, but as young college students, our ambitions and achievements are positioned higher on our pedestals.

We are in an aspirational stage of our lives, so we’re told to invest in the self first.

But humans instinctively want to be seen and known; isolation is dehumanizing. Imagine life without anyone to experience its pains, disappointments, or beauty with. 

One wonderful thing about community is that it is contract-free. There is no obligation or stipulation hinged on your relationship with those in your community. 

Like any relationship, community needs to be watered and cared for, but you can always return to community. It won’t expire or sign you out like a subscription, at least the healthy ones. 

I’ve found myself in a variety of small communities so far in my life on campus, and I’ve recently reflected on how I take each of these relationships for granted.

As an introvert, I usually don’t fare well with large new spaces and faces, but I’ve made it my life’s mission to step out of myself and the boxes I create.  

I dance now, though I have never done organized dancing before. I traveled abroad this past year, though I never left the country before. I tried out a running club, though I never routinely ran before. Small and big pursuits in the name of community can be equally fruitful.

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I now cherish each opportunity to explore new things, even if they don’t unfold as I initially imagined; a fresh experience will always be worthwhile because you can say you tried. 

I don’t want to diminish that trying can be difficult because building community is demanding; you're dealing with people. There will be arguments; nerves may get pricked, and feelings can get hurt.  

Establishing relationships also comes with great personal risk because vulnerability is risky. It’s challenging to offer oneself up to others without a guarantee of the relationship lasting. 

Yet, anything worth pursuing will have its difficulties. It’s good to remind yourself of what you're striving for and why you're striving for it; remember why you continue to show up for those in your community. 

I have a great fondness for people but an even deeper reverence for people I love. Yet, I take for granted that the people who have become “my people” or community on campus chose to let me in. My friends allowed themselves to be vulnerable with me and endure life’s major and mundane moments together.  

Now, for however long we allow, we can share and delight in what our people delight in. And not because we’re forced to, but because we desire to; we crave our relationships enough to seek them out day after day.

Investing in a collective for the benefit of others rather than ourselves can look foreign in our modern context. 

Yet, as we all hope to leave this place to enter even greater places, what will we have to cherish and reflect on from our four years? 

I hope it is community, because there is nothing more beautiful.

Contact writer Grace Randolph at grace.randolph@richmond.edu.

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