Finding joy in others

By Haley Atkinson

“The Whitworth communi­ty” is a phrase ingrained in our minds and hearts from the mo­ment of our arrival on campus. Traditiation is devoted to gen­erating dorm community, while Prime Times carry the commu­nity through the year.

RAs coordinate hall activities and open door policies to cul­tivate a strong hall community. The small group ministry is com­mitted to providing communi­ties of spiritual growth. Programs and events are created seeking to address specific needs of the community. First-year seminar courses are designed to fos­ter major communities. Com­munity Building Day facilitates positive interactions with the greater Spokane community. But beneath it all we have to ask is there a genuine community? I would argue yes.

Are we all running barefoot to the Back 40, Bibles and guitars in tow, to sing worship songs? Or the ring bearing/bridal maga­zine toting hopeful looking for his or her spouse? Or the Fris­bee throwing, pine cone catch­ing, plate dropping kid? No. Are some of us? Yes, and ultimately it is the combination of these stu­dents and many, many others who make Whitworth the vibrant community it is.

This week, as I have sat trying to write a positive perspective of the Whitworth community, I spent the majority of my time staring at a blank screen. I love the Whitworth community. I traditiated in Warren, spent a semester in BJ and am now an RA in East. But I know there are many students who do not have these warm and fuzzy connec­tions to our campus. I have been blessed to hear some of their sto­ries, learning Whitworth is not the Candy Land so many of us make it to be.

I wanted to write an opinion highlighting the wonderful and unique aspects of our commu­nity, but I do not want to alienate the members of my community who already feel isolated. The only means through which I am able to reconcile this tension is appropriately framing my under­standing of community. I choose to believe the Whitworth com­munity is striving towards under­standing. A people seeking truth.

In many ways I am the mani­festation of the stereotypical fe­male Whitworth student. I am a white Protestant raised by two loving (Young Life) parents in an upper middle class neighbor­hood. I go to church on Sunday, wear Toms, drink coffee and am passionate about issues of social justice. While all of these are as­pects of me, they are only the box I could be placed in. There is a great deal beneath these exter­nal realities. It is in the sharing of my story and hearing the stories of others authentic relationships begin. These organic relation­ships are the foundation to a healthy community.

Far too often we view others in the box we have placed them. It is in these placements hostility towards the Whitworth populace emerges. In order to find and en­joy the community we boast of, we must be a people entrenched in the stories of those around us. We cannot nitpick the experienc­es and backgrounds that align with our own; rather, we must re­spect and give ear to those drasti­cally different from our own.

Living in a true community re­quires sacrifice, grace and truth. We must learn to forgo our time and perceptions and respect one another. As we aim at the objec­tive of intentionality, grace must be at the center, for one another and ourselves, communities are built gradually with caution and care. Lastly we need honesty, with ourselves and one another. Not every day is a good day, we must first admit this for our­selves, and be willing to hear the grievances of our peers.

The Whitworth community is far from Utopia, but I have come to know it is full of passionate, loving people carrying stories waiting to be told. It is in the pa­tient pursuit of individual rela­tionships we build our personal communities. It is in the culmi­nation of these idiosyncratic clusters the true Whitworth com­munity is found.

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