My husband and I have been married somewhere between six and seven years. We met in college, with all its built in friendships. We each moved twice between college and our wedding, and then we moved again soon after. We found a parish we loved and made friends, but these friends happened to be of grandparent age. The rural parish had a distinct lack of young families.
Finally, two years ago we moved twice within three months and found ourselves completely without friends. As two introverts, this can sometimes feel like living the dream! But we realized that we needed people in our community. We needed friends with children who understand our life. We needed friends to push us to become better people. We needed community.
I’m a stay at home mom. I run a business and teach online. My days are full. But I looked for opportunities to find friends. I went to a nearby parish for a ‘moms and tots’ play date. It was hard for me, introducing myself to a room full of strangers, making small talk, keeping my son from drinking too much fruit juice… I didn’t make any connections that day and I didn’t have the energy to return.
For introverts, getting past the small talk to important matters is so difficult but so needed. I kept looking for community.
A few months later, over a year ago, I saw an invite in a Catholic women’s group online. A homeschool mom about an hour from me was having anyone and everyone over. I packed us up and off we drove. The day was again hard on me, I felt like hiding from the minute I arrived. But another mom showed up who didn’t know anyone else. She actually lived quite close to me. Her son is the same age as my son. This seemed promising!
I messaged her about meeting up, and we had a little playdate at the library. It was awkward for me, but she seemed nice! We didn’t talk again for a few months. And then, this same friend announced that she wanted to start a women’s study group! I felt more confident joining because I’d met the organizer, and off we went. Last summer we started meeting up. Finally, I had found the group of my dreams! These women cut through the small talk. They bared their souls and we prayed and laughed and cried together. We have continued to meet for the past year, inviting new friends in and growing together.
And so, with this experience in mind, I have three suggestions for introverts searching for community:
1) Just go. You don’t have to be talkative, you don’t have to really enjoy it. You can’t be friends with people you’ve never met. Go.
2) Give it time. Many introverts take their time opening up to others. It’s ok not to connect with one group of women. Give it a try or two and then find another group.
3) Be vulnerable. Making friends requires vulnerability. Acquaintances can just chat about the surface, but friends dive deep. If you want to be a friend, be willing to go deep. Community is based on mutual need – needing each other.
Community is almost foreign to us today. Asking others for help is seen as weakness. Borrowing a lawn mower because yours happens to be broken doesn’t even enter our minds. We can’t have community without vulnerability and the willingness to look outside ourselves. Sometimes we’ll uphold others. Sometimes we’ll lean on them. It’s this give and take that forms a community. It’s the meals when someone’s sick, it’s the prayers during that medical test, it’s the texts asking for recommendations of doctors, restaurants, and parks. It’s knowing that someone else cares.