11/29/08

Won't you be my neighbor?

I went home for a few days over Thanksgiving to help my mom with some chores around the farm. One of those chores was to burn the compost pile as well as some different weeds. We were very careful, and we were close to finishing when we noticed that one of our farm buildings was on fire. We still can’t figure out how it happened, but without further speculation, it is now charred and ready for demolition. (I didn't have my camera, but the building in the picture is the hog house that burned down) Living in the city, and now going home to a small farming community is always a wonderful adventure for me. In a town where everyone knows who you are, for some reason that I cannot explain, I always try to remain as anonymous as possible by staying on the farm. I don’t think that it’s uncommon for those that leave their hometown to never want to return…or at least to forgo the formalities when they return. Catching people up on what you’re doing, where you are, and vice versa. It could be a finished book that they never wish to re-open; not necessarily good or bad, but just thinking about re-opening the book is unnecessary. Again we can speculate any number of possibilities. However, a burning building tends to draw a crowd. Next-door neighbors, and when I say next-door, I mean those that own land bordering our property or extremely close stopped by. They brought the weenies and the marshmallows, while we provided the fire. I saw people that I had not seen in years. Other than the shock of the fire, there were several emotions that I had. The first was humility, we had to call the local volunteer fire department and just to stand there and do nothing was quite humbling. I’m currently reading Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson and he is currently illustrating this very fact. We ourselves can do nothing to save ourselves, only God is in the salvation business, and he doesn’t allow anyone else to play that game. The second was this overwhelming sense of community. In thinking through the community that I have where I currently reside and the community where I grew up there are some subtle differences. The first is that I currently don’t know one of my neighbors, and I don’t know that they would even know who to call in case of an emergency, nor do I know if they would show up and offer help. Not only did our local neighbors stop by, but they stayed until the fire department packed up and even then, some of them called and stopped by the following day. However, my current community knows me on a much deeper and personal level even though they don’t live next door.
If I could, I would marry the two together. I would love for my community of friends to live next door to me, maybe not right next door as I would still love to have acres of farmland in-between us! But I would love for my old neighbors to know me and “get me” like my current community. In the wake of disaster, I realized just how much we will lose when we eventually sell our farm and move my mother. We’ll lose a community that I now realize the importance of and appreciate more than ever…they may not know everything about me, but they really don’t care. They love unconditionally. It’s a good lesson for all of us. I challenge all of you to reach out to your neighbors and build a community where maybe there isn’t one it might be at work, at home, or at your local Starbucks.

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