There’s a running joke about how I have “Five close friends” and that’s it. In fact, I decided to write a friend’s name on a day in my planner to remember to pray for them: “Michelle on Monday, Rebecca on Tuesday, Allison on Wednesday, etc.” I got to Friday, and I stopped. I ran out of names to write down! I wanted to do this great idea and pray for my friends, and I ran out of friends! (Don’t feel sad for me: I’m so content and love the five friends I have and feel no shame.)
I write about this “problem” not for pity or pride, but God has really taught me that community is essential and necessary.
In January, we had a big medical emergency happen with our dog. It was life threatening, and I was terrified. I got the call at work and immediately rushed home. As I was on the highway, I decided that I was so desperate, scared, and needed more than my “five close friends” to pray for us and our dog. I recorded a short Instagram stories video explaining the situation and asking for prayer.
I admit I felt a little silly to do that—to share about our dog emergency and ask for prayer—but I don’t regret it.
In minutes, I was receiving messages saying that they were praying for us, checking in on us, and making sure we knew that we weren’t alone. There was a community rallying around us.
This wasn’t the response I anticipated, and it definitely was overwhelming to be flooded with encouragement and support. We even had a few messages and conversations days after asking how we were doing, and that they were continuing to pray for us. I was so beside myself. I no longer felt alone in the situation or embarrassed, and I was so grateful others shared their puppy experiences with me. The whole experience was easier to bear because a community of people came alongside us.
I really didn’t want to share what was going on and how dumb I felt. It felt vulnerable, out of the norm, silly, and insignificant. Other people are dealing with losing their job, broken relationships, or medical issues, and here I am, sharing about how my dog is in the hospital.
But I did it. I shared what was going on in our life to over 1,000 people on the internet.
And that community of people, whether they owned pets or just cared about our family, spoke prayers on our behalf. They lifted us to for comfort, wisdom, and healing, and they ran this course of the race with us.
(For the record, we did re-puppy proof our house and are more alert as to what he’s eating. Sparty made a full recovery with no long lasting damage to his stomach or kidneys.)
Then in February…
I had such a frustration with social media, Instagram to be specific. I decided that I wasn’t going to stress myself over trying to think of content and what to post daily and decided to take it as I felt. I wasn’t going to box myself into a schedule and allow myself to spend that time and energy elsewhere, namely with my family.
I was trying to cultivate a “real life” community while sharing time with the online community, but this channel said I wasn’t spending enough time online.
If there was even a one day gap, I noticed a huge change in my metrics of how often and where my posts were viewed. A twenty-four hour “non-posting” period is a slap on the wrist to a business account.
Even though I was doing everything correctly—nice picture, engaging content, hashtags, comments—it didn’t matter because I missed a day or two in posting.
I went to Instagram stories again and posted my complaint.
Then to my actual feed, re-hashing the situation and declaring that I’m over it.
The comments and likes tripled compared to anything else that I had posted, and the resounding message I received was “I feel the same way.” I wasn’t the only one having a difficult time managing a business/social media channel and spending time with family. I also wasn’t the only person in an entrepreneur/creative community feeling a frustration over growing a business through social media.
I went to Instagram stories the next day and decided this is in my own hands. I’m going to take control of this situation and make something of it. I made a post explaining what I was doing:
I’m over the whole algorithm game. People are hustling and making our quality of life better and social media doesn’t always highlight these wonderful people. So if you know a hustler that should be recognized, let me know, so they can be encouraged! Here are some people that I follow >>
The next twenty stories were dedicated to individuals I knew who were crafting, creating, and serving, and fighting the balance of work and life. This was a shout-out to my personal business community—these were individuals I purchased from, respected, knew personally, and worked with.
I received messages of thanks, appreciation, understanding, and empathy. I wasn’t alone in feeling this frustration. Someone said “I love that you did this. I want to follow all of them because I love supporting small businesses.” And another comment was “I want to do this, too. I want to encourage other entrepreneurs and give them a shout out.”
My end goal wasn’t to gain more followers or support but just to vocalize a frustration: that we shouldn’t have to chose when growing a business to give our “real life” community less priority than our social community. And I definitely had no idea that it would inspire others to do something similar (give a public shout out to other businesses).
This was a time where I could see the quote “A rising tide lifts all boats” in real life.
And I was so glad to feel that I wasn’t alone in this situation, that I wasn’t the only one struggling and trying to grow a business and have a family. I even got a “bonus” of encouragement told straight to me and through tags and mentions. This was insightful: people appreciate a kind word, recognition, and understanding.
The small community I have with other business owners is so dear to me, and I love to encourage them. I am so glad that the frustration I felt was able to encourage others and let them know that we’re in this together.
I love the “Five close friends” I have. I cherish them and so honored to be part of their lives.
But I also understand more how we need community outside our close friend circle. Being connected to other people allows us to not only be poured into but also to pour out. We gather courage and strength from others, so we can later strengthen and lift up a friend.
The empathy I received from Sparty’s hospitalization helped me understand and encourage someone on Dog Rates that was went through the exact same situation (that post, too, also received more likes and comments than I even imagined or expected).
The praises I receive about my artwork are so sweet, and I want to give that same feeling to another creator, whether they’re creating beard oil, a knit hat, or teaching materials. We’re all working with our hands and want to know that what we’re doing matters.
There can be healing and comfort in knowing that someone else went through a similar situation, and there can be renewed strength in encouraging someone states away who is also creating and working. It takes courage and vulnerability to share and say “I feel the same way” or “I struggled with that, too.”
There’s great risk in sharing, so there has to be great trust in God—that He will provide and bring the right people alongside us to heal and strengthen and not tear down.
Is there something that you feel like God is telling you to share? Or do you know someone who is experiencing a parallel situation from your life?