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Smiling woman on a zip line

I’m half way into an exploration of community with a group of amazing changemakers inside the Community Builders Circle, and over this past month, we’ve been exploring safety in community.

I challenged all of us – myself included – to answer the question:

“What would it be like in community if you knew you were totally safe?”

Then I had a real life experience.

On September 23rd at exactly 3pm local time, I joined a group of Portuguese locals on the beach in Faro for a Walk For the World event.

I did not feel safe.

Physically, I had no fear for my well-being. It was a public beach, the sun was shining bright and people were abundant.

The sand, the sea, the sound of the waves, all these were both familiar and reassuring.

Still, I felt shy.

A group of people gathered at a beachfront restaurant. They spoke to each other in Portuguese, and though I couldn’t understand them, I was pretty sure they were part of the Walk For the World meetup.

I held back, practically clinging to my partner for comfort, until the time for our walk grew nearer.

Eventually, I met the gaze of one couple and we approached them.

“Fala inglês?” I asked.

Yes! Thankfully, the Brazilian couple both spoke English. They were welcoming, kind and the husband joked with us.

The woman organizing the group spoke English and greeted me with a warm hug. She repeated the instructions in both Portuguese and English.

We walked together, each listening to the guided meditation in our earphones, for an hour on the beach, being the energy of change we wanted to see in ourselves and the world.

What was I afraid of?

These people were as welcoming as you could hope for.

Yet my mind was filled with thoughts of their judgement for my lame and nearly non-existent Portuguese, my American ignorance. I felt insecure and inadequate.

It wasn’t the situation or these people who caused my feelings; it was a tsunami of insecure thought in my head.

“I’m not insecure; sometimes I just think I am.”

But what if I had known myself to be completely and utterly safe?

What if I knew I could not be harmed by judgements?

What if I was assured that I was okay, no matter what happened?

I show up completely differently when I walk in Safety.

I am my natural, happy self. I speak English and practice a bit of Portuguese, laughing at my mistakes.

I connect with people, transcending language, and feel a sense of belonging to the human race.

This is who I am when I know I’m safe; it has nothing to do with the community, and everything to do with finding safety in me.

In noticing this, I am beginning to show up differently with my community.

The feelings of insecurity have not disappeared, but I can see more clearly how indulging them keeps me from the connection I want with this country and my neighbors.

I’m not judging myself for feeling insecure. As long as it looks true that I can be hurt in some way by what other people think – which is just my imagining of what they think — I’m going to hold back.

But slowly, or perhaps not so slowly, I see how this makes no sense, and the fear begins to fall away.

Safety is my natural state, and this is a return to community.