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Why Community?

Who is your monkey? Who can you depend on? Who do you have that will sit with you and take the stress away? Who can you rely on and trust? Do you have someone? Is there someone always in your corner? Is there someone you run to during good and bad? Someone that you call for help, encouragement, or just a laugh?

 

I'm sure you've heard of the 4 for 4. It's basically a famous world wide tradition now, started by the Achatz. But if you haven't heard, let me explain. When there is a break of a certain number of days (usually around a holiday), we take each of those days and do that many miles. That sentence sounded like a scientific definition, so let me give an example: Memorial Day allowed us to have Monday off, that is four days off of work in a row, so each day we ran/walked four miles each of the four days, hence the name 4 for 4.

This year on Day 1/4, my dad had just gotten back from an Entre Leadership Conference in Florida. He flew back on a Thursday, we did our tradition on Friday. During this time, we talked, laughed, fled from mosquitos, and had an overall blast. On our path there is a wind, where one road curves into another. As we were walking that turn, my dad explained to me some research that Dr. Delony spoke about during the conference - having a monkey. It may seem odd, but here it is:

According to scientific research explained in an article written by Sara Tabin in Forbes Magazine, having a monkey to do life with makes all the difference. In this experiment, there was a control group of monkeys who performed the task of pulling a string attached to a platform. After having the monkey perform this task, they measured the stress hormones in this monkey. Next, they had the monkey do the same task, BUT they added another monkey to help him. The same experiment and measurement took place. The monkeys who were paired with their friends had lower stress hormones when working with their friend than with working alone. You might say that this is just because they are more successful now with a helper, so the experiment was performed again, but slightly different. This time, the platform was remanufactured to have the single monkey just as successful in pulling the rope as he would be with a teammate, yet the results did not change. The monkeys who had help, always had reduced stress hormones. But the studies don't end here, many other studies have been done on the significance of having a monkey. Some studies even go to say that when monkeys had their friends with them, even if they just sat with them, their stress hormone cortisol went down. (Tabin)

 

This time of year, last year, my mental health was less than excellent. It honestly isn't 100% this year either, but there is a huge difference. Last year I isolated myself. I was depressed and alone. Overwhelmed by stress. Instead of leaning into community or even any friends, I thought I could work through it on my own. I stayed in my room, did my homework, didn't hang out with friends, I became an island.

This year, I let myself be vulnerable. I let myself have a monkey, actually a few. Instead of working it out on my own, I text someone. Instead of putting unrealistic amounts of pressure on myself, I ask a family member to relax with me or I seek encouragement from a trusted friend. Instead of sitting in my room crying, feeling anxious and overwhelmed, I text a monkey and ask for prayer, or I cry in the arms of people who really love me.

A few weeks ago, my Sunday was hard. I woke up and went to church as normal, but as I've mentioned, Sundays are hard grief days for me, especially when I keep it in for weeks. That Sunday was especially hard. I was standing in my row for church, feeling mentally and physically exhausted. Last year I had felt this way too, but instead of dealing with it or even feeling it, I would've just pretended that everything was going great. This time I had a monkey. While I was standing in my usual row, my friend came in, a few minutes late. Walking up and standing next to me while announcements were going, they leaned over and whispered the question "how are you?" All I did was shake my head and you could tell it was a sad day. I went back to looking forward and reading the announcements. Having a pen in their hand to take notes later in the service, they grabbed my hand, flipped over to my palm, and wrote "It's going to be okay. I love you." In that moment, I felt safe. It was going to be ok, I have hope, and I have community to help me through.

 

After some evaluating, tough times of being vulnerable, and lots of coffee dates, I have a monkey, and not just one. I have a few people that help take the stress of my life off, who do life with me.

Community makes the difference. It's easy to isolate ourselves when were sad, depressed, anxious, ashamed, and the list goes on. But the healthy option is the opposite.

We were never meant to do life alone.

We were meant to have a monkey, a church, a family - a community.

Find your monkey. Get in community. Come back to church. You're a part of the family.


Grace and Peace,

Evelyn

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