Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?" (Author, Cali Harris)
Hmmmm... I started thinking about my community when I was writing a sermon about the middle of October... It was supposed to be on "loving my neighbor" and I found myself thinking about my actual neighbors. The people on my street. There are 19 townhomes on my street. We had lived here for 5 years at that point, and I knew 3 names – and they were all little kids that adored my husband and my dog.
Our culture these days, especially if you live in townhomes, is to come home from work and close the garage door without ever waving to a neighbor, never walking to the mailbox, or sharing a cup of flour. And I fall into it, too. I stop at the mailbox when I’m leaving for work or coming home – so I never have to get out of the car! If I need a cup of flour or a stick of butter… I go to the store quick. There was no sense of community or “neighbor”hood where I live. So how on earth was I supposed to share my faith – much less my life – with the people who live the closest to me?
Well… When I started working on this sermon, I decided I needed to do something about that. I had been reading some wonderful books about living our faith life… about sharing our stories… about reaching out to those around us… and I realized if there’s one area of my life where I was really missing the boat – it was with my neighbors. The people who actually live ON my street. So I started praying… and praying… and thinking… And I kept coming back to what a wonderful experience our church UNICEF Carnival was last year. All kinds of people came, stopped in for some games and goodies, wore their costumes – it was non-threatening and fun. Easy to come and go… and so I asked my husband if we could do a little Halloween cook-out on our street this year. Send invites to the 21 houses on our street, say "We’re going to be grilling apple brats, we’ll have some warm apple cider, some pumpkin cupcakes – and candy to anyone who comes in a costume! Stop by as you’re coming or going… But stop by and say hi – let’s meet our neighbors!"
Sounds simple. Easy. No problem. Yeah, right. This was SO not my thing. I’m shy. I like hanging out with people I already know. I’m one of the people on our street who comes home and closes the garage door right away. The idea of throwing a neighborhood shin-dig scared me more than a Halloween haunted house. Why? No idea. Seems silly to be scared. But I was. We worry about what people think of us. We worry about being rejected. We worry about offending someone. We worry about the neighbors that already don’t like us – SHOWING up! Now what? We worry…
It’s human nature. And that’s ok. But it was also ok to take a risk, to trust in God, and to give something new a try.
I just wanted to take a moment to shine a light. To learn some names. To laugh a little and hope that we become better neighbors…. We bought our pumpkins – they were carved with candlelight glowing – soft and warm – from within. We had some lanterns lit – hinting at the fun of a family party. Street lights glowed – emitting a “safe” refuge from the unknown…
My hope? Relationships would begin. Walls would begin to come down. We’d begin to know and love our neighbors – and through that relationship, begin to share our lives and our stories…
And it happened!
From that one event on Halloween... We met 15 of our neighbors, enjoyed some good food, learned names and a little bit about one another's lives, played with the kids and the dog, and started some friendships.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, the hubby and I decided to get our outdoor Christmas lights up before the freezing temperatures and the snow came. We were working on our (what-used-to-be-little) maple tree in the front yard. Whoa. It grew about five feet last summer! We were laughing as we struggled to get the lights toward the top of the tree - and as we were working on our project EVERY one of the people who had been at the Halloween cook-out came by and either waved, stopped to talk, teased us, or offered to help. One of them let us borrow his super tall ladder - and when we returned it, we brought him some home-made salsa to go with his fajita dinner!
It felt like community. It felt warm and welcoming, fun and neighborly. I loved it.
We still have a long way to go - and now that winter has settled in, no one is outside again... But we'll continue trying! We've got a good start!
Where are you seeking community?
Things I am thankful for today:
1. A fun night with Jill last night! Great conversation, good food, and a beautiful cozy home!
2. The hubby noticed his notes - finally!
3. The hubby helping to get some things ready for our Christmas Open House.
4. Starting to think about and plan our cookie-o-rama...
5. Hoodies (especially with fleece inside the hoodie and collar... Oh, the luxury!).
6. An emergency situation ending up ok, today.
7. Dinner out with the hubby - Indian food. Yummy.
8. Elizabeth Edwards' example of living with dignity, strength, and courage.
9. Whole Foods still has our Vosges chocolate bars - and we got some tonight... Yeah!
10. Taking the long way home to look at Christmas lights.
(Mom, this tree's for you! Tell Dad to use this as his inspiration...)