In an earlier blog, I stated that OATS was an acronym for Openness, Awareness, Togetherness and Separateness, the building blocks of community. That is more than just a cutesy way of saying something. It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge for anyone who wants to be part of a community. Let’s take a look.
- Openness Being open to people who are diverse, who think differently, who come from dissimilar social/economic backgrounds, people of other races and nationalities, is a fundamental quality needed to build a strong, vibrant community. That may seem so basic that it need not be said. In my experience it does need to be said. It can and often is a challenge for us when we are sitting comfortably in the familiar surroundings of our home watching television, eating the snacks we like to eat and (here’s the killer) wishing we had some place to go, or some people to be with. That desire is offset with thoughts like: “I don’t like that so-and-so who monopolizes the conversation, who belongs to a different political party, who gets all the attention…” Being open to people who are different is an indispensable attitude one must take if they want to build community.
- Awareness One who wants to build community must also be willing to learn and to grow, to explore new ideas, new worlds. People who travel a lot, often find new friends and form communities with them. People who join book clubs reading books that they probably wouldn’t choose to read except it is the selection for the club, grow and begin to thrive in such communities. Community builders are life-time learners. They are good listeners. They are readers, researchers and seekers of new knowledge especially as it broadens their understanding of the world around them, and their community(s), and on top of that they make community happen.
- Togetherness While online communities such as Meetup or Facebook are becoming ubiquitous and certainly do enhance being connected, they will never replace the good old-fashioned face-to-face meeting. Coming together physically energizes us and gives us a sense of warmth especially when we bring our willingness to be open and grow. Togetherness is really just another term for community. Persons come together to form community. They share their space, their time. They work with one another. They are willing to give of their time, talents and their treasury. They share. They form a family, they build community.
- Separateness Probably the most important and least understood of the attitudes one must have in building community is separateness. Just because one comes together with another or a group of people, they don’t lose their own integrity. Each of us is a unique creation. We don’t all think alike; our experiences are often vastly different. Our individuality is good and when shared can be a great source of strength to the rest of the community. Furthermore, we must be willing to stand apart when we find ourselves at odds or we disagree with what the community all seems to be saying or doing. When this is done respectfully and with a humility that sees differences not as being better or worse, but just a matter of what it means to be human, the community and the individual all benefits.
So there you have it, OATS, the way to grow communities. Now let’s all go out and sow some OATS. Let’s make our Community of Passionist Partners alive and exciting places to come to and to be part of.
We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.