Posted by: deerharas | August 11, 2008

In Search of the Third Place

Exactly three months have passed since I last posted, my longest blogging break on record. If I ever had an excuse, however, I suppose packing up everything I own, moving across the country, unpacking and trying to adjust to a completely new life would be a pretty good one.

Coming off of my little hiatus, there’s a lot I could write. I might do an annotated and illustrated update soon, but for today I want to talk about the Third Place.

I moved to Wheaton about two weeks ago, completely prepared in most respects. I stayed in Edmond a couple weeks after my job ended, so I had plenty of time to pack and get organized for the move. I had a place to live (thank you, Jesus) and even tentative job lined up for when I got here. In Anne Lamott’s book “Traveling Mercies,” she talks about two prayers she returned to over and over again: “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Throughout this whole ordeal, my heart has echoed the latter.

When I moved to Edmond four years ago, initially it was really hard. I was lonely. I had a few friends in OKC, but no real sense of community in my new place. The start of the school year helped once I had a staff and had grown closer to a couple of my coworkers, but it was a good year before I felt really a part of a community outside of work.

So in moving here, I knew it would be hard again. I was prepared somewhat. I am not a superficial friendship person; I hate small talk. I just want to snap my fingers and magically conjure up deep friendships. However, as my good friend Stacey reminds me, the superficial stage and the small talk are necessary to the development of the depth I long for.

I think the hardest part now is the loss that I feel. I mean, I knew it would take time to develop the kind of relationships that I had in Oklahoma, but being here and only knowing a handful of people (if that) has reiterated how blessed I was not only by my friendships but by the communities I was a part of there.

As much as I want to fast forward to deep community, I know it’s not possible. I have to start somewhere, so that’s what I’ve been doing this past week. Last Tuesday I visited a group discussing a theology of poverty and a specific chapter of “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.” Having read some of the book a few years back upon the recommendation of a professor, I jumped at the opportunity to discuss something so interesting (and rarely discussed in my usual circles). Plus, I would be getting out and meeting people other than my roommate. : )

Ironically, the conversation at one point turned to community, and someone mentioned a phrase I had never heard of before. He said something about the decline of the “third place” in American society. I interrupted at this point asking for clarification, and received a little sociology lesson. The first place is considered one’s dwelling place, the second place, their workplace, and the third place is a place of community apart from home and work. For some it may be a bar, a local park, a church; the place is insignificant. What matters is the community that develops there.

Sitting there among this group of strangers then, it clicked. Yes, the third place. That was what I was looking for. That’s what I needed. Third place, anyone? Got one I could join?

Now, please don’t start to feel sorry for me. : ) Things are good, really. Moving carries with it inevitable adjustment. I know the community will come in time, and I’m actively pursuing it, even if it means going to dinners in homes where I don’t know a single soul and succumbing to the despised chit chat. (Actually, I had an incredible experience doing just that this past week … real third place potential there) Being here just makes me really thankful for all the third places I had there. I was so blessed by Sunday morning FLOCK, FLOCK at Craig and Beth’s, card night with the girls, Henderson Monday night volleyball, House Church, Wednesdays in the Mesta with Stacey, Conversation Cafe, and Friday Panera breakfasts with Jamie.

So … first place? Check. Second place? Check. Third place? I’ll get there. Prayers appreciated friends.

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