Perhaps the most important mission before our generation is to shore up the eroding structures of community life.
In our increasingly hi-tech, low-touch world, and with all the media forces dividing and isolating us, more and more people sense how important it is to rebuild community — an essential ingredient of our well-being. But it’s not easy!
I read a story that moved me.
In a rural little mountain town each Easter, a small church community would gather by a lake at sundown for a baptism ceremony. As the newly baptized waded back to shore, the rest of the community was singing and cooking dinner. After changing in blanket-booths, the wet folks would gather around the campfire to warm up. Everyone else would form a larger circle around them as each of the baptized was introduced to the community — where they lived and worked, who their people were.
And then the ritual would begin.
One by one, the people in the outer circle began to introduce themselves, and offer something to those by the fire.
My name is . . . if you ever need help with washing or ironing…
My name is . . . and if you ever need anybody to chop wood…
My name is . . . and if you ever need anyone to babysit…
…or repair your home,
…or sit with you when you’re sick,
…or give you a lift to town…
The ceremony seemed less about baptism and more about being adopted into the community. Afterward, they ate and square-danced into the evening.
Stories like that strike a cord of longing. There is something deeply communal embedded in our humanity. We have a deep itch that social-network community can’t scratch. We need up-in-our-business, wood-chopping-and-babysitting community.
The trouble is, wood-chopping community is a hassle. I don’t know the people from that little town, but I know people. People are precious and wonderful. But people are also a hassle (you and me included).
Some of the smartest people in our society go to work every day to figure out how to make our lives increasingly hassle-free. They figure out what we want, and how to let us know they sell it. For all the negative press we give consumerism, it’s really nice having somebody figuring out how to get me what I want.
However, after a while, we become quite accustomed to hassle-free lives.
Which puts us at a significant disadvantage for the mission of rebuilding community. Authentic, real-life community (what we really want) is demanding and difficult.
So the question before us…
Shall we go with hassle-free…
Or shall we feed our souls?
Having spent many years in a community focused on this particular hassle, I speak with some conviction: go for the soul-feeding!
The hassle of community-making is worth it!