The Quiet Center

Every successful community relies on the member who is its heart. This is true for communities that live together and for those that live apart but gather regularly. If they are to survive and flourish, all need that person who is the unifier, the glue, the center.

He or she may not exercise authority in the community, at least in the way it is usually understood. They may sometimes be less than visible, especially when the community goes about one of its special activities like the celebration of an important event or the carrying out of a public action. When the community has to discuss a serious question, this core person quite possibly will not figure prominently in the decision. Rarely will he or she serve the community as its prophet—calling the group to places as yet uncharted.

Yet day in and day out the collective counts on the heart person in its midst for those connective gestures that make life in common livable and attractive. He or she has an eye for detail, for the person or situation that needs attention. Perhaps it's just a word to the community member who is feeling overwhelmed; it might be the act of straightening up the living room; it's the thought of baking a cake for the upcoming gathering; or it's simply reminding everyone that there is a meeting coming up. Consistently this person at the center of the community's life provides the lubricant that makes it all run more smoothly.

In one community we know about this heart person was a man, in another a woman. Each was indispensable for the life of the group. Theirs was never a nagging presence, rather one of immense and selfless service born out of a conviction that the common life had enormous value for all and was worth the daily trouble of making it happen.

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Sojourners Magazine July 1994
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