If you’re still peopled out from the holidays (or your everyday life), or if you’re an introvert, or even if you feel a low-key pressure to “be in community,” staying connected could be easier than you think!
Waving to the neighbor whose name you don’t know, saying hello to the cashier you recognize and liking posts on social media are enough to have a positive impact on how we feel and invites others to feel the same way.
My friend Julie builds bridges exactly like this.
Julie Rabquer is a pillar in the community of Mansfield.
You may not know her or even know of her, but she has been bringing light and hope and stability to our city for many years.
Julie is a force. I have known her for several years and I have watched her love the desperate, call out the goof-offs (of all ages!) and stand strong in the face of deep concerns for her neighborhood and family.
Julie lives in a beautiful old Victorian house that she has been restoring little by little for the past 20 years. She cares for many generations of her family, including three grandchildren who live with her.
She takes the kiddos to visit the nursing home up the street every day to visit her mom and the other residents. This is part of being in community, according to Julie.
One thing that I truly admire about Julie are her connections.
She is highly respected among her friends and dearly loved by her neighbors. She is able to speak to their life choices—good and bad—in such a way that they feel seen and heard, even if they don’t take her advice. She obviously invests well in the people she knows.
But I have also seen her help a young mom, cheer on a teenager or discuss health care with someone in a wheelchair, and then ask their name. Julie considers them her people as well.
Julie makes the most of her “weak ties,” something that strengthens herself and her community. Close relationships and tight networks and quality interactions are only part her picture.
It’s super easy to be friends with Julie because she isn’t looking for a new best friend, advance any kind of agenda or even to widen her circle. Community is easy for her because she includes everyone around her from the most casual acquaintance to the oldest friend.
I believe that Julie’s low-pressure approach to community is a factor in the improvements she has seen in Mansfield over the past three years. There are more things available for people who need them through the Salvation Army, different giveaways and meals like the one Community Life Ministries hosts in the basement of First United Methodist church every Saturday.
Julie has seen a drop in crime. Six years ago she spray-painted a gold cross on her front window, for protection and hope. She prays. She does not feel scared to live where she does. She says, “I have seen a lot of good and a lot of bad in people. People need resources and guidance.” She hopes to start a community garden in an empty lot near her.
Julie hopes Mansfield keeps its modest roots. She is proud of who we are and invites us to join her in that.
I felt a little like Julie the other day. I had made big adjustments to my daily walk/run schedule over the holidays (meaning, I had skipped several days, haha) but I was out for a quick run. In the distance, I saw one set of neighbors who walk daily talking with another neighbor who is often out with his two dogs. They all said hello as I approached, then one of them said, “We were just wondering about you. We hadn’t seen you out in a while.”
I explained about family in town and events (all while running, which tells you how slowly I was moving), and they said they were glad to see me.
I don’t know their names and they don’t know mine. But it’s good to know my community looks out for me!
And, next time you see Julie, wave!