Spontamunity is not a typo. It’s a word I made up. (You’re welcome)
Spontaneous + Community = Spontamunity
Spontamunity is an accidental collision, kind of like a firework.
And boy, do I love fireworks.
No…. Stop it. I know you are thinking, “Oh! I love fireworks, too!”
No you don’t. Or perhaps you do. I don’t know. I get territorial about the things I love most, which means I’m edgy about fireworks.
When I watch them I squeal and jump up and down, clapping my hands, then laughing and occasionally crying. Small children are distracted by me at firework shows and adults tell me to quiet down when I shout things like:
The day after firework shows I find inexplicable bruising on my arms, face, and legs. My hands are cracked from clapping, my calves sore for jumping. I have gaps in memory and a loose tooth. I can’t explain what happens to me when things start exploding in the sky. I become a sponta-maniac.
And last year’s Fourth of July fireworks in San Diego were particularly memorable. Several minutes before the show was supposed to start a computer glitch caused all three barges of fireworks to explode at once, producing 12 seconds of the most incredible sky fire I have ever seen. It was like a patriotic apocalypse.
News coverage: San Diego Fireworks Fail
The explosion was so extraordinary I didn’t even yell things. I just stood there stunned. And when 20 minutes of orchestrated fireworks backfired into 12 seconds of accidental majesty, spectators around us asked, “Was that supposed to happen!?!??”, “Was that it!?” and “Who ate my funnel cake!?!?”
Even though it was probably the shortest show on record, it will remain one of the most memorable. That’s why I can’t decide if the fireworks explosion was a success, a misfire, or both.
And that’s how I like to think about spontamunity: the totally unexpected interactions that feel like an accident you’re glad happened.
This working definition evolved at the coffee shop yesterday when I sat next to a stranger who was full of advice. He told me about his 32 years in the Navy and then offered a life plan for Mike and me.
He told me about why marijuana should be legal: “To fix the prison system, of course! Make those criminals grow the stuff! Throw them all in a field in Nevada!”
He told me that now is the worst-ever time to have kids: “I mean, we didn’t even have computers 20 years ago” (to which I raised a brow of confusion) “Just imagine where this world will be in another 20 years.”
Then he noticed my bible on the table and said, “Oh hey. Is that a bible!? I just started reading the bible! Quiz me! You gotta quiz me!”
Stunned, I replied, “Quiz you? ….Um… I don’t have flashcards… ”
But it didn’t matter. He was already off to the races.
“… 60 something books in the bible… written over 3,500 years…by one author…God… ”
Then he transitioned, “Oh hey! What do you think of fasting? Is 40 days even humanly possible?”
I wasn’t really involved in the conversation as much as I was the accidental catalyst. We chatted about everyday topics like mega churches, pastors who drive Bentleys, the death penalty, and defense spending. My new friend was combustible with excitement. I just kind of sat there stunned.
I walked away from that spontaneous conversation a little confused, a little entertained, and mostly thinking “Was that it?” and “Was that supposed to happen?” I’m wasn’t sure if it was purposeful or just an entertaining accident.
But it doesn’t actually matter. That spontaneous interaction was a good thing, even when I didn’t know what to call it. A blessing? No, that sounds too heavy and spiritual. An opportunity? No, I didn’t do anything for this guy.
It was spontamunity.
Because even though community is most often a 20-minute-or-more ordeal, one that is orchestrated and scheduled and carefully defined, sometimes it’s something lighter. Sometimes it’s spontaneous. Sometimes it’s just a 12-second flash, one where the collision adds levity and makes the world feel smaller and more human, like a high-five you weren’t expecting.
When Mike got home later that day he walked in the door and said, “Hey! How was your day? I was praying for you this morning. I prayed for community for you.”
And I laughed and high-fived Bailey (because she always understands)
Then I told him how I found it. Kind of. Except I would call it something else….