Taking notes on community

IMG_2457Most training sessions start with introductions. As I was starting three days of training, I wanted to start with introductions, too. But for a course called “Spiritual Formation”, I want even the process of introductions to teach. So I used my “how do you want to be known in five years” exercise. (I talked about it in “What if he already is“.)

The members of the group thought a bit about the answer. Then they talked in groups of three about the answers. And then one by one, they introduced one of the colleagues they had just talked with.

As we went around the group of eighteen, I wrote down each person’s desire. Part way through, I noticed that one other person was taking notes like I was. Everyone else was showing appropriate group behavior: nodding, smiling, maintaining eye contact.

After we finished I said, “I want to scold you a bit.” I said, “when I was talking in the first part of our class, you were taking notes, you were writing down things I said.”

I hadn’t said much, other than to give them a glimpse of where we were going, to tell them a bit about how introverts need alone time to answer a question like “how do you want to be known in five years?”

“But when we get to the time of meeting people,” I said, “learning about the other members of the group that will become a learning community, a spiritual community during the next three days, you didn’t take any notes at all.” They were hearing from seventeen other people, they were hearing epitaph statements, desires for growth. They were hearing things like, “He wants to be known for his faithfulness” or her love or caring. And they didn’t make notes to remember who might become a colleague on the journey.

They took my scolding well. They grew together. But I realized that making notes about the people around me with the same attentiveness as I  make notes during a lesson or sermon is part of loving my neighbor.


About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.