The Man Who’s Transforming My Grandma’s Apartment Building


Last week, I visited my Grandma in Southern Indiana. We caught up with one another and shared the local gossip. She has lived in the same apartment building for sixteen years, and she has some great friends around her. I often hear about them when we see each other or talk on the phone. Though I’ve never met them in person, I’ve learned their names and know a bit about them.

Lately, she’s been mentioning a new friend. He’s relatively new, and in the short time he’s lived there, he’s transformed the place. And he’s done that in the simplest of ways: He just brings people together.

It’s that simple.
It’s that transformative.

Sam* makes big meals and invites everyone. Sometimes, he does most of the cooking himself. Other times, neighbors pitch in also. They seem to enjoy finding ways to complement his main dishes with their side dishes. They come together, laugh, and tell stories.

It’s that simple.
It’s that transformative.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the sacred act of convening. To be honest, I think it’s magical. When we bring people together with intention, we begin to connect in ways that we never intended. That’s an interesting paradox, isn’t it?

When we create spaces for people to gather, or when we enter convening spaces of others, we can expect meaningful connections to happen. That’s the intention. But the particularities of how it will happen? We can never seem to predict it. Connections form in ways we never intended.

This is what we’re experiencing together in this new, unfolding community called Michigan Nones and Dones. Last October, we simply started to gather as a Meetup Group, and it has been magical. We are a community for people who are religiously unaffiliated (the Nones) and people who left traditional, religious institutions behind for a variety of reasons (the Dones). We have had conversations of depth and formed meaningful friendships. At times, our conversations have moved in directions I never dreamed. And it’s all still in process.

When my Grandma talks about her new friend Sam and these meals they’re all having, she uses language of resurrection. “This place was dead. But now it’s alive again.”

You can never anticipate fully how new life will emerge when people simply gather together. But often, it does.

It’s that simple.
It’s that transformative.

Renee Roederer

* I have changed his name to keep his anonymity.

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