They say our sense of smell is our strongest memory.  One of the most distinct smells is that new car smell. (In fact, if dopamine & comfort had a smell, I’m sure it would smell like a new car :).  For me however, new car smell will always be associated with a difficult family memory and the obstacles with being IN community.

Finishing up a half-day kindergarten, I was picked up by family friends from church. They had a son my age who was one of my favorites. They were in the market for a new car so we stopped at a Cadillac dealership. As serious buyers they asked to test drive and, being a luxury car, it had that quintessential new car smell – a perfect mix of new carpet and fresh leather. While the ride was expectedly smooth, something was amiss. Picture this: two would-be buyers in the front seat, admiring all the bells & whistles, imagining themselves on road trips or drawing the gaze of others with this fine car. In the backseat are two young boys. Being 5, I didn’t know how to exactly to share that something wasn’t agreeing with me…and then it happened –

I. Threw. Up!!  Uhh…Test drive over.

Imagine pulling back into the lot saying how much you like the car…but just not this one. Truthfully, I didn’t even know the position I put them in. This story has haunted me over the years. I guess there’s nothing like your friend’s kids’ vomit to test the bounds of being in community.

The scent of community can be BOTH a fragrant offering AND a foul odor. But so can family. Sometimes we sniff differences in parenting, kids’ behavior, or general flakiness of friends. Other times, it smells like misunderstanding, the way we carry our stress, and emotional ‘triggers’ from the past. Yet, the fragrance of community is knowing and being known. It’s serving despite discomfort but doing it together. It’s the aroma of varied perspectives of from ages and life stages. It ‘smells’ like wisdom. It’s what happens when each person work to find a contribution rather than consume the goods. “Test driving” community is fraught with risk because it always involves relationship. It needs a standing appointment to stay current. It asks for sacrifice even when unnoticed. Yet, whether married or single, kids at home or gone, at the front end of a career, peak production, or winding down. We. Are. Always. Better. Together.