Wednesday, November 14, 2007
So my dream has always been to move out west. The real west, Big Sky country, with Rockies in the background of every vista, small cabins crouching at the feet of big mountains, huge sunsets, and—most important of all—sooooo much space. Vast expanses of emptiness. Just me, perhaps a handful of loved ones, and lots and lots of room. Even my localized versions of the dream share that spaciousness. I picture ten or twenty acres with my house squarely in the middle of the acreage. A tractor is a must, maybe a horse, plenty of access to free firewood for the fireplace or wood burner, a garden in the summer… but neighbors? Not a must. I think I could do all right without them.
And please don’t misunderstand; we have great neighbors. They’re kind people, they’re thoughtful, they watch out for each other, are generally fond of our son and the other kids in the area, most of them drive slowly, and by and large they’re considerate about noise or mess. I honestly think we’re blessed to have such neighbors. But neighbors aren’t a must. I could probably do okay without them. I guess I’m a bit of a loner; I’ve never had much trouble entertaining myself.
Here’s the problem: our church is very much in support of living in community with one another. For real. As in, doing helpful things for each other, taking meals to people who need help, offering to run errands, opening our homes to each other, etc. And it’s a biblical concept. Over and over, our pastor (whom we both really like and respect—Todd may even love him) has pointed out clear, inarguable Bible scripture that dictates we genuinely care about and help each other, especially other believers in Christ. The whole concept of the church is that it’s a familial community that shares everything. The second greatest commandment? Love your neighbor as yourself. I can’t find any loopholes there. I’ve looked. I’m really supposed to love my neighbor. Love him.
And who’s your neighbor? Everyone around you—not just on your street, but around you all during the day. The annoying negative braggart at work, the lunkhead down the street who starts his Harley at 6:00 AM, the needy sort-of friend who always requires a ride or favor or money, maybe a family member who’s making you a bit batty. All of them. We’re to love them.
And how does this all fit into my dream of moving west and living among wild animals, perhaps some livestock, and lots of aspen trees? I don’t think they’d count as neighbors. So, that’s a bit of a situation. I can’t see how I can love my neighbors if I’m living the glorious, quiet, uncomplicated life of a hermit. I can’t be a good community member if I refuse to join the community. I can’t perceive the needs of all my neighbors if I don’t know them, spend time with them, let them into my world.
The toughest part is that I’m genuinely beginning to see how I, too, benefit from my community. Overall, I’m better with them than I am without. I am reminded of this nearly every day, when I talk to a friend on the phone, email a gal pal from Bible study, look forward to choir practice so I can see how everyone’s doing, etc. These exchanges make my days more enjoyable, cause me to count my blessings instead of cursing my bad luck. Watching others who exhibit grace every day, even in hardships, causes me to try harder, to work toward a better version of me. And helping others? The fact that we are able to do so at all is a reminder in itself of how much I’ve been given—given to share, that is.
Slowly, surely, it’s beginning to feel good to share. I still fight it sometimes—I’m human—but I know that the more I do it, the easier it will become. And the more I do it, the more I’ll find goodwill in my heart instead of bitterness and isolation.
So, I’m working on an adjusted version of the dream. I’ll get back to you with details as they emerge.
P.S. No, I can't claim credit for the photo--someone named Punit Sinha took it. I am borrowing it, since we didn't have a digital camera when we were honeymooning out west.