Last spring three sitcoms debuted around the same time. Of the three, only one received the coveted full season renewal, and unless you’re a TV fanatic like me, you’ve probably already forgotten the other two – if they even crossed your radar at all.
The reason only one could survive and – in many minds – the shows were indistinguishable is simple: all three were about a small group of friends in their late 20s and 30s who hung out together day in and day out as, of course, hilarity and hijinks ensued.
As my friends (and husband) will tell you, I watch too much television. So it’s no surprise that I can name half a dozen shows that feature groups of friends hanging out all the time without even stopping to put down my remote.
Honestly, though, that’s not just a commentary on the way I spend my leisure (and laundry) time; it’s also a commentary on what we, as a society, are craving.
We crave community.
I recently read an article that asked, “Why Do the Sitcoms We Love Have So Little in Common with the Lives We Lead?” When I spotted that headline in my Google Reader, I assumed the post was about aliens, zombies and the ubiquitous vampires. (Or, perhaps the forensics lab that solves crimes in 43 minutes or less.)
Instead, the authors pondered the portrayal of friends on television and the vast differences we see in our own lives. Even if you frequent a coffee shop, diner or bar, I’m guessing you don’t spend hours there every day, chatting with your friends like the casts of Friends, Seinfeld or How I Met Your Mother. And while many of us socialize with co-workers or classmates on occasion, most of us don’t do it to the extremes of the folks on Parks & Recreation or Community.
So why is it that our favorite shows are about people who live like this, episode after episode? I think it’s because the ensemble comedy is today’s fairytale. Whether we realize it or not, we dream of having a place where everybody knows our name, our breakfast order, our business.
For those of us who went to college, those days in the dorms are likely the last time we experienced such close proximity and intimacy with a group of people. After all, it’s kind of hard to avoid it when you’re swapping clothes and snacks, studying on each other’s futons and sharing a bathroom. In that kind of environment, you naturally do the thing that so many churches today are advocating: you do life together.
It might mean you’re never alone, but there’s always someone to eat dinner with.
You might get woken up early or late (or all the time), but you don’t hesitate to pick up the phone when you need to talk to someone (or get a ride home) at midnight.
And diverse as your backgrounds and majors may be, the fact that you are experiencing so many of the same highs and lows (and common enemies . . . like finals and “Premium Night” in the cafeteria) removes all those barriers to allow solid friendships to form in a blink-of-the-eye amount of time.
Now that we’re grown-ups with bills and jobs and families and bathrooms of our own, it’s so much harder to cultivate the kind of community we had back then – or the kind of friendships we see on TV every night.
Making friends as an adult is hard. Maintaining friendships is just as hard, if not even more difficult. We’re busy. They’re busy.
But wouldn’t it be worth it? I mean, what if the oft-quoted passage of Acts 2 wasn’t just an old story or modern fairytale about grown-up life?
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. (Acts 2:44-46)
I’m not sure how to make it happen. Or how to make it happen very quickly. I can’t very well force the other preschool moms or the couples in my small group to eat a meal with me every single day or to hang out with me at the Central Perk every afternoon (perhaps during naptime…?).
What can I do to foster this community I’m craving, then? Mark and I have been talking about this a lot lately. We miss having the close kind of friends who are all up in our business because we really are living our lives side by side. So far, we’ve only resolved to invite people over for dinner or out to lunch a couple times a month.
Baby steps, you know.
Help me out, friends. How are YOU creating community – real, authentic, got-your-back, know-your-kids, love-you-even-on-grumpy-days community?