When we moved to Philly, my biggest concern was for the loss of community we had in D.C. I was very comfortable in my job, with my group of dear dear friends, and had fallen into a bit of a routine. I was used to knowing others and being known by them.
I knew I wouldn’t have that in Philly. At least, not a first.
But I could never have anticipated how lonely those first few months would be, or how radically I would shift from constantly lonely to surrounded by some of the sweetest people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.
Mine and Zach’s first introduction to Philly was not a pleasant one. Getting punched generated an unprecedented fear of others. Fear, that until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t fully recognized for what it was. That paradigm-shattering experience of uncalled for violence created something unhealthy in me that turned the golden rule on its head.
Instead of love for my neighbor, I felt fear of my neighbor.
This realization came after I was in one of the places where I’m increasingly finding kinship: our City Group at CityLight Church. We were praying for our neighborhoods when the leader of our small group had us turn from prayers for others to prayers of confession. It was the first time that I verbalized my fear of neighbor. It was an important revelation of sin in my own heart & something I’m trying to fight daily. I know that I’ll have to keep asking God to replace feelings of fear with love.
While the first incident in Philly was definitely formative, it does not have the final say.
In addition to Community Group and various church activities, I’ve had the pleasure of getting back into Pure Barre. At one of my first classes at Pure Barre Philly, I was nervous and unsure of how to connect in a place (Philly) where I felt so alienated.
That alienation quickly turned to inclusion after a stranger and I got to talking before Pure Barre class. Turns out she had just moved to Philly for her new job as a pharmacist. Rather than wait for our friendship to develop over a few chats before classes, my now-friend Josephine invited me to join her at the market in Rittenhouse Square (the same place we got punched). We strolled through the Square, munching on a yummy muffin, and chatting about our faith, our jobs, and what it was like to move to a new place.
She and I became instant friends.
From Josephine, I’ve learned that it’s important to put yourself out there, to be vulnerable, and to make friends quickly.
Just today, I grabbed lunch with another friend from Pure Barre, Maria. She and I got to chatting after she started following me on Instagram because of my daily posts on my 15 classes per month Black Barre Challenge at Pure Barre Philly. A simple follow led to conversations at class and now a friendship that I’m really excited to see develop.
From Maria, I’ve learned unmitigated kindness in so many ways that I hope to emulate.
Zach and I have also been building community together through interactions with his co-clerks. In fact, we have created a bit of a tradition, affectionately known as DST, or Dim Sum Thursdays. Thursdays are our standing night where we go out to get some form of Asian food — it’s not always dim sum — and share a pint while going over the weeks’ happenings.
I never expected to become such good friends with Zach’s colleagues. But I have, and for that, I am grateful.
From Zach’s co-clerks, I’ve learned that community is often about consistency.
There are so many other people I could mention. From church friends who spent entire Saturdays with me introducing me to Philly (thank you, Bryannia!), to friends who go on double-date brunch excursions with us (hat-tip to you, Sydney and Anthony), to friends who came over for our Ugly Christmas Sweater party and Halloween Costume party, and those who have just grabbed coffee with me to talk about existential questions like motherhood and vocation, you have brought so much joy to my time in Philly.
And this is only the first six months!
I can’t wait to see what the next six months have in store.
When I first sat down to write this, I originally thought it would be a how-to piece — a how-to-create-community-from-scratch kind of thing. But then I realized how impossible it would be to write a community creation instruction manual and decided to simply share a few bright spots and take-aways from our time here in Philly.
We have been supremely blessed to find community here. And I definitely see the hand of God in a lot of the ways these friendships have developed.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever! ~ Psalm 111:10