I like community. It's such a nice word, such a great idea. I grew up in small town Iowa and long for that community that was so second nature in my youth. I remember summer evenings with all the kids playing in the street while the adults lounged on their porch chairs and greeted those who walked by. Even if you were a stranger, it was impossible to stay one very long.
That was 30 years ago and I ask myself what happened. Is it me or is it the society I live in? I long for that type of community, not just in my neighborhood, but also among my Christian friends. What if we had the type of community that made it impossible to remain a stranger for very long? I think people would be drawn to such a model like moths to a light.
So what keeps us from creating such community? As an adult I realize something that I never knew as a kid: Community takes work. It doesn’t just happen. So many things vie for my attention; church commitments, work, family. Honestly, I would love to develop deep relationships, but who has the time? But I am committed to it. Really.
We had a new home built recently. It has a front porch just barely big enough for a chair, but the back patio is 10 feet by 20 feet. We have lots of room to relax in our private back yard. It’s private because I spent huge amounts of sweat and money to put up a six-foot privacy fence around the perimeter of the whole yard. I can sit on the patio after a tough day and no one will bother me. I don’t have to look at my neighbors and they don’t have to look at me.
Another nice feature of my new home is my phone with caller ID. In the old days, if someone called, I answered the phone. Today, no one interferes in my life without my permission. I look to see who is calling and whether they are worth my time. It’s suddenly apparent that I view people as an interruption instead of an opportunity.
Of course, the coolest part of the house is the home theatre. It’s in the family room, which is in the back part of the house, far from the front door. I don’t even have a telephone in the family room. After a tough day of being an elder, project manager, dad and husband, I can completely escape with a movie. Let the phone ring: That’s what answering machines are for.
I am totally and completely committed to community. I swear! For some reason, it just doesn’t seem to be working. I’m starting to think it’s because people aren’t reaching out to me.