“Our mission as leaders for this time is as simple as it is ancient: community. This is what we do best; this is what we have always done through all our ministries. We lead for community. There is nothing more important, more radical, more necessary for us than to lean into our apostolic call to nurture and foster community wherever we find it, wherever we are, with whatever means we have, whether it is prayer, solidarity, presence, sponsorship, or our blessing….” — Sister Teresa Maya
One of the functions of a community is to facilitate giving and receiving. We give and receive spiritually, emotionally, financially, physically and in many other ways. Community is guided by the premise that we can’t do life on our own. Relying on others is critical for our survival and happiness.
Like others, I struggle with receiving. I’d rather give. My inability to receive is probably because of past experiences that made me believe I’m not worthy of love — something many of us are actively working through. This false belief is hammered down by a culture of individualism. It’s a philosophy I’m trying to deconstruct.
So I tried an experiment a few weeks ago. I told myself I would consciously do a better job at receiving. There’s been so many lessons I’ve learned.
Lesson 1: Receiving allows others to give.
I had the privilege of officiating the wedding of my dear friends Brendan and Alexi. When I met with them in Connecticut to discuss the ceremony, they gifted me their used Prius. It’s the car I’m using for the road trip. I’ve never been gifted something like that before, so it was difficult to accept. I reminded myself to focus on my gratitude to them, and to honor the beauty in their expressions of love and generosity. They were signaling: You helped us with the next chapter of our lives, and we’d like to help you with yours.
Lesson 2: Receiving can transform those who are witnessing it.
A few weeks ago, at a community retreat I hosted in northern California, a group of community leaders I worked with sat in circle with me to share how I’ve positively impacted their lives. It was uncomfortable for me at first because I didn’t want attention on me, but I tried my best to let go of those insecurities. At the end, one individual came up to me and said, “It was powerful to witness you receiving those words from each person.”
Lesson 3: Receiving can foster vulnerability and gratitude.
On my last day at work, I was surprised with a beautiful ritual. My boss (also a dear friend) read out-loud a poem that he wrote about my influence on our team. One-by-one my colleagues stood in front of me, accompanying each stanza, gazing into my eyes. We cried. At the end, my team gifted practical items for the trip (like a first aid kit, which I overlooked) and sentimental artifacts (like a book full of photographic memories and loving words that I’m keeping in my glove compartment). At the end, we went around the circle and shared what we’re grateful for. A colleague’s mother was in the room — she was visiting the Bay and wanted to see her son’s work environment — and told us at the end of the day, “Every workplace should feel like this.”
Lesson 4: Receiving can open up space for deeper connection.
Two dear friends Luisa and George invited me to live with them during my final weeks in San Francisco. Already close, our time together under one roof deepened our connection. We shared responsibilities and meals together, and being around them uncovered new possibilities about romantic relationships. By living with another person, it offered them a new perspective on love and marriage too.
I’m at the beginning of a multiyear road trip across the country to uncover stories of unity. At times, it feels like I’m at the edge of this beautiful, red-rock canyon. I’m about to take a leap of faith based on this inner calling that the work to bridge across difference is both timely and important.
On this voyage, I must receive. It will require the generosity of strangers to take the time and space to share their stories. It will allow me to have a more fulfilling experience, and unveil new lessons to me. I hope to work towards balance on this trip to both give and receive.
Scott Keoni Shigeoka is on a year+ long road trip across the United States to uncover the stories of people who are bridging across social and political difference. His writing is catalogued on Refugium, a digital blog about these bright spots of unity across the country.