Community lost and gained

When Addy was born, I wished there were a mess of people waiting for the blessed event, I wanted to take her around to the whole neighborhood and say “Look what we have!” But were I to have done that, it would have been very odd.

In the US, if my neighbor was starving, or suicidal, or otherwise in desperate straits, I know they would not count on me to help them. Were they to do so, I would help gladly, but I know most neighbors would prefer that they were left alone. I do not feel I could go to my neighbors for more than maybe a cup of sugar. We have lost community here.

And I don’t think most folk realize what a huge loss that is.

Why do I care about this so much to go post when I should be outside planting my tomatoes?

Because in the book Searching For God Knows What, Donald Miller said the same thing—we have lost a crucial thing in the loss of community.

So the churches are supposed to be this community, but way too often, maybe even most of the time, they turn into something else. A place to go to feel like one is a good person, a place to feel like one is doing their duty, a place that signifies oneself and their position–rather than the community of believers who bear one another’s burdens.

When J and I hit a rough patch, I was afraid to talk to my church sisters. I was afraid they would judge me, and decide who I was based on my worst moments. Even though our rough patches are always resolved, I fear that they will look at me months later and recall only the time I spilled my guts about the rough patch in my marriage. Or they will remember me as the shrill desperate person I felt at that point, or as the negative somewhat unhappy person I was at that point…Or never call me again because they have their own problems. So much for the community. Sometimes it is tough to even really connect with one person and share those difficulties.

Paul sets out how we should live in communities as believers, sharing each others burdens. The Jews did this so well…if one’s neighbor had company and had no food to share, the other neighbors brought over what they had so the host would not feel shame, so the community would not seem poor or greedy. It happened in Russia…one legacy of communism was a strong sense of sustaining one’s community, because the rough patches were not so few…the memory of hunger, cold, fresh in their memories. They knew that they had to sustain their elderly neighbors if they found need. If they didn’t, they brought shame on themselves for being greedy.

What a loss here. We all live in our big houses separated by our expansive lawns…we share nothing but a street. Maybe some trees.

I guess this saddens me most because I’m not sure what we got in exchange for our community…the right to be left alone? Left alone to do what? Die quietly in an easy chair? Do drugs? Not share?

I go back to the bible again, those communities shared Christ as the head…that we would afford grace when offended and forgive easily, share easily, laugh together and cry together.

Sigh. How to get that back. Maybe I will move to Mauritius.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Fitèna says:

    2 extra eds: One for J and you and one for Ady! :-)We’re moving soon though, I think.“I guess this saddens me most because I’m not sure what we got in exchange for our community…the right to be left alone? Left alone to do what? Die quietly in an easy chair? Do drugs? Not share?” You’re so right.I think its starts with Being left alone in order not to have to share or being asked then the rest is just a consequence. There are many societies which do not accept failure. In whatever sens. Whether its unvoluntary or was just meant to be due to circumstances out of your control does not matter. So you either shut up about it or you’re scorned at. My cousin said to me “Here, if you want to talk, you pay a shrink to listen. They’ll think you’re insane going around asking people how they are and remembrering their birthdays and kids names”. She lives in France.Am so grateful I’ve had the childhood I had, the parents I have. The fact that they’re both from two different countries is already a lesson in itself for us to learn to live with others. Care about them and not judge. And also be open minded.This is a beautiful post Heather. Thank you.Fitèna

  2. M says:

    Yeah, I often am frustrated by just the disparity between my small-town roots and my big-city existance.Whenever I go home, I always get stopped in the grocery store by friends of my mother who seem to know more about my life than I do. And I’m sure they’re MYOB compared to other cultures. It angers me that people wait standing next to each other at the bus stop every day all year and never utter a single word to each other. Just a smile and a “hi” as you plop down next to someone in a coffee shop makes you a wierdo. Add to it the fact that, around here, you never know which language to approach someone in, and I feel very damn alone.

  3. Alexandra G says:

    I couldn’t agree more. We are so very isolated in so many ways the way our society, neighborhoods, and mentalities are set up in this country. I don’t think we even realize what we lose and how isolated we are. Surrounded by people but yet trained not to truly share, esp poignant what you said about your neighbors and wanting to be there for them but we aren’t “supposed” to reach out. And thank you for stopping by my site so I could dioscover yours. I have read Foer’s wife’s book, The History of Love, and I LOVED it. I want to read his new book actually and her first book.

  4. suleyman says:

    Ah, but does this community not also exist, at least in a limited form, in the blog world? I crave solitude a lot. I’m around a whiny 3 year old and two parents who are constantly fussing at each other all the time. What you are describing – being alienated from one’s neighbors – I think is less of an issue in the South, especially in the smaller burgs.-Suley

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