One of the summer's projects is to acquaint myself with two writers, Bakhtin and Buber, who explore the self as meaningless outside of community. Not so much that we let those around us define us, as that we come to know ourselves in community, in our interactions and conversations with others. 

I'm struck as I blog about the fruit of the Spirit, how they don't make much sense outside the context of community. It is true that we can be loving to ourselves, kind to ourselves, joyful at our own accomplishments, faithful to our own ideals. But the true power of this fruit is its ability to foster healthy relationships.

Friday night we attended the farewell party of a friend who was heading off to grad school. Listening to stories from those gathered and seeing the interaction that took place gave us a new understanding of this young man. At one point, a college roommate was remembering a quote that the guest of honor had written on his wall a few years previously. It had stayed with him, molding his own life and lives of others as he passed it along. You probably remember it, too, he said, and the two of them recited:
"Be kind. for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."   (Plato).

I looked at the assembled group - I didn't know everyone there, but I knew the stories of several. One couple had recently dealt with a son's debilitating illness. Another had been fighting valiantly to restore a broken marriage, replacing toxic air with that of restorative peace.  I struggle at times to keep the faith that joyful, creative community is possible.

In the midst of our days, we have the opportunity to extend kindness, to bear another's load for a moment, to offer a refreshing comment, to infuse the atmosphere with humor and good will. I can make the choice to respond out of what I'm feeling, or I can take a breath, and allow the Spirit to breathe kindness through me. To improve the oxygen level for myself, and for those around me.

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