Editor’s Note: The following is part of our daily holiday series celebrating “The Shared World.” 

This is not a story of an epiphany, of one overwhelming moment of clarity or a life-changing event that altered my perspective of the world.

More so, this is a story of a journey, one that started slowly and continues slowly, that sometimes stalls and takes detours, that has no ending and a blurred beginning.

Most of my life, I have been handed community. As a young child, I played with the kids who went to the same babysitter or the children of my parents’ friends. As I grew older, I became friends with the other students in my class. I’ve had the same best friend since I was 6, though for almost half of that time we’ve lived in different states.

College was a little scarier, as I didn’t really know anyone ahead of time. But freshmen orientation is designed to help students make friends, and throughout my years in college, I remained friends with many of the people I met that first week. Even when I moved to Washington, DC to join FMS’ Nonprofit Servant Leadership Program as the development associate, the Casa San Salvador community was waiting to greet me with open arms.

During my first year and a half or so in DC, I cultivated some truly wonderful relationships with people I worked with, lived with, and/or met in the DC Catholic community and beyond. I felt great about the community I had built, and the ease in which it happened made me confident that it would always be like this.

Sarah visiting baby panda Bao Bao at the National Zoo with friends James (who now lives in Texas), Bridget (FMS Communications Manager), Deanna (who now lives in California) and Mark (who now lives in New Hampshire).

Sarah visiting baby panda Bao Bao at the National Zoo with friends James (who now lives in Texas), Bridget (FMS Communications Manager), Deanna (who now lives in California) and Mark (who now lives in New Hampshire).

Then my safe little community began to collapse, as good friends moved away and I moved out of the Casa Community after my volunteer term ended. Sure, I had many acquaintances, but few people I felt I could truly share myself with. Having always been an independent person who liked to do things on my own and for myself, I managed to convince myself for a while that this was ok. I didn’t really need community.

Wrong. I became lonely, and in my loneliness and sadness, I began to pull away from God. As I said, this is not a story of an epiphany where I realized what I was doing and why. Instead it was gentle nudges by the Grace of God. An acquaintance inviting me for lunch; meeting someone new that I felt called to build a deeper relationship with; visits from or trips to see friends from my former communities.

I was an awakening in myself that I wanted more, that I needed more. As with most of the best things in life, it takes a lot of effort. Making new friends (the real, true kind) involves making yourself vulnerable, putting in the effort to meet people where they’re at (both physically and within their lives). It involves hopes and fears that are both realized and unfounded, but throughout it requires a trust in God, in yourself, and in your fellow humans.

God created humans as naturally communal creatures. We are meant to live in harmony with one another, to share together all that has been given to us in this world. Slowly and painfully, joyfully and without even knowing it, I have been discovering this over the past few months.

I’ve joined a parish community here in  DC that has an active and social young adult group; I’ve been encouraging myself to join in on events that will allow me to meet new people and hopefully form new relationships; I’ve put more effort into some of the relationships that had just barely started but needed a little nudge in the right direction; and I’ve prayed, a lot. This is not something that happens all at once, it is a work in progress. Thankfully, it is a journey I do not have to make alone.

This Christmas season, the idea of the “Shared World” has really been a reminder of the way I need to live out every day of my life: shared with others.

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