Thursday night was hectic. I always feel a little hyper with events coming up. The Green Valley Community Dinner was no different. Everything was in place. We had our soup, special thanks to the Blackburn’s Chapel members. FARM Café had already come out to set up the chicken and wild rice they had made for the event. Folks were starting to trickle in. I suddenly felt panicked. What if not many people came?
With every event I put on, I have a similar reaction. What if after all this work, all this effort, not enough people come? Our society is a quantitative society. We measure success by numbers. If one hundred people attended this event, or this church, or this item sold for this amount, then it must be good. The bigger the better, is often the mentality. We are a people pleasing society. We feel validated by people’s affirmation of what we’ve done, and if there’s more people to do that, it feels good. I find myself often falling into this trap. I know all the right Christian phrases to tell myself. I tell myself things like, “Well, Jesus only had twelve disciples,” or “The beginning of the church was small.” I’ve told myself over and over. But it changes with the fact that hundreds of people followed Christ, and the beginning Church eventually grew and grew.
I was immediately validated at Green Valley when I saw the number of people showing up. Whew, I thought, Thank God it’s a success. But was it? As I reflect on the event, I look at the number of people who signed in. I barely recognize any of the names. Last week, Alexia Salviterra came and spoke at workshop on relational community development work. In essence, community development is more about building relationships. Being the extrovert that I am, I talked to a few folks at the dinner. Most of it was small talk, nothing deep. It was an initial meeting, so it shouldn’t have been deep. However, I had the opportunity to really talk to folks from the community, to build a sense of community with them. And I didn’t. I relied more on numbers than I did on the meaning of those numbers.
The Green Valley Community Dinner was not a failure, though. It was a building block. Often times, we stop with numbers. We are excited to count the people, but we don’t look at it as opportunity to grow ourselves, and to meet more people. Advertisements for businesses and corporations just want the numbers, but our profit is not money but the quality of community. I’m writing this mostly to remind myself to not stop with numbers and trivial details, but to extend myself to bring in community.
As Thanksgiving comes up this week, we are continually reminded of community. Community with our friends and families is experienced with the act of eating together, an activity that we do every day. It is rare that we show our gratitude for something as simple as eating every day, but it is, nonetheless, something to be grateful for. Eating, living, being, and even more so being with the people in your community who matter, that’s something to be grateful for. It’s not about how many people there are at a thanksgiving feast, but a measure of the hearts there.
Below: Caroll Ann serving soup.