the Search for Community

  photo by  Ash Parsons

photo by Ash Parsons

you know those days - the ones when there's a sudden compiling of many many littler & larger things that crash into a heaping pile of discouragement.  a few days ago i had one of those.  i found myself standing in our kitchen staring at a pot of soup on the stove.  standing, staring, pausing & thinking.  coincidentally i had just finished reading Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey and my thoughts about community & place were ruminating... thoughts provoked by Sarah's writing about what community is, how we are all, each and every one, longing for deep relationship.  i felt my need in that moment.  while i stirred soup.  a pretty mundane but thought-full state of affairs.  

and then a couple things happened - small as they were, simple as they seemed, but miraculous in nature.  a darling family a few houses down from us- neighbors we now call our 'new friends' - came by and dropped off a plate of homemade crepes, sweet & savory, cream cheesey and fruity jammy with comforting eggy batter.  with the crepes came handwritten notes, crafted with colorful markers and construction paper from their three young girls, thanking us for being their neighbor. i almost cried. such a simple, thoughtful gesture but to christopher & i, we felt cared for. it was the best thing that had happened all day. 

& then i took the pot of the soup i had been staring at to a new friend who wasn't feeling well. literally we met two weeks ago. maybe delivering soup was a bit over the top for a new friendship? but come on now, let's get over ourselves. so i delivered the soup, which led to us visiting in her living room about genuine relationships, about empathy, about transparency and the lack of it, and how hard it is to really share who you are and where you're at with people. 

amen to this. it is hard. but that unexpected twenty minutes in andrea's living room bolstered my spirit, in a real & true, acute and alive kind of way.

& then soup
& then a few honest words in a new friendship... 

these are just snapshots of moments in my Tuesday,  examples of people in houses in neighborhoods in a city choosing to do little things that might not seem all that important or special. our neighbors chose to build some darn good crepes. and andrea chose to open up to me about what she was pondering.

seemingly small things, yes.  but hardship is a real thing,  loneliness is real too. sadness is prevalent around us.   and small things can matter a great deal in someone's day and in their search & deep need for a community.  

these moments in my week have reminded me of some hugely important truths:

+ doing something to say, "hey, i'm thinking about you, and i care about you" can go a long long ways.

+ community happens over time, in small ways that lead eventually to big ways, because of the choosing and the doing.

+ and last but not least, loving people doesn't always (or EVER?) have to look like kinfolk magazine and certainly rarely looks like pinterest.  there, i said it.

christopher & i are here to stay in this vast place of northwest montana, in this specific place of Kalispell, in our neighborhood, on our street in our little house. we have hopes, even on the hard days, that our staying will grow friendships and a close knit tribe of people who share meals with us and their victories,  their hurts and grief and who laugh really loud with us, and cry on the porch with us too.

"What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to creat stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured."  - Kurt Vonnegut

"I used to live the Gospel beautifully in my own head;  I thought about it all the time. But the radical act of staying put, a commitment to practicing a theology of place, is teaching me - the overthinker - that thinking isn't quite the same thing as doing. My intentions and beliefs and pontificating about community don't matter one iota if I am not engaged in living out the reality of it".  - Sarah Bessey

Proximity is your invitation to live out the Gospel of loving, of doing, of maybe, in some unexpected way, being a facilitator of something bigger like community.

it's not magic -  it's just a choosing.  the truth is:  community isn't a buzz word we should all be humming like it's a hot new perfect-looking trend for the coolest people out there.  it is for you and for me and the person next to you. we are all in deep need of knowing and being known.

The life of Jesus was marked by "everything from catching fish to baking bread as a sign and a foretaste of the ways of Christ and His Kingdom"  - Sarah Bessey .  i hope that wherever you are, in whatever place, rural town, city metro- wherever God has you- you are moved to reach out to the people around you.

reaching out to those people in your proximity can look like crepes or soup or flowers from your yard or a handwritten note in crayon or a hug or just looking someone in the eye to let them know, ' i am listening, because you matter immeasurably to God and in this moment you matter to me too'.