Our families, churches, schools, neighborhoods. All chosen by those responsible for our lives.
But, the day comes–on the playground, in the lunchroom– when we start to build our own communities. To choose the people we tell our secrets to. To forge friendships and gather tribes.
This happens in the context of the universe that was already predetermined. But, the process has begun. Some kids are friends and some are not.
We begin to choose groups with common interests: band, soccer, drama, chess club, youth group. Now we are with people who have similar gifts, goals or passions. We share time pursuing activities that we are mutually interested in.
Belonging to a group shapes our identity, and in turn, our identity shapes the group.
We jockey for position, for a pecking order, for our role in the group.
Someday we will leave that circle. But the memory of that group and the part we played in it becomes an integral part of ourselves.
Eventually, we move on as autonomous adults who choose the communities they belong to. At least, most of them. You might not choose to be a prisoner or a widow, but you choose your church and job and spouse. You choose book club or AA or Mary Kay.
This is one of the many reasons why family reunions and schools reunions are so important. Our identity is formed by the communities we didn’t choose as well as the ones we did.
The better we understand what shaped us, the better choices we can make in choosing and creating the communities of our present and future.