A Little Community
"The idea of a modest dwelling all our own, isolated from the problems of other people, has been our reigning metaphor of the good life for a long time. It must now be seen for what it really is: an antisocial view of human existence." (James Kunstler, quoted in The Suburban Christian, p. 116)
Ouch. When I read that in Al Hsu's sixth chapter, "Won't Your Be My Neighbor?" I felt uncomfortable. I like my modest dwelling in this very urban exurb where I live. I find respite in "cocooning" which is going "out less and stay[ing] home more." (p.118) Indeed, I find that staying home works to produce a sense of meaningful identity, not linked to the conspicuous consumption that TSC warns against in other chapters.
I'm also not sure that having a modest dwelling, and spending a good amount of time here, means I live without community. I say this after I spent yesterday with a grieving widow, while my back yard neighbor watched my kids, even though she was nursing a cold. And I say this after spending Monday evening with another back yard neighbor, as mutual support for our recent grief.
This isn't to say that my residential geography doesn't make connection more challenging. I don't have a front porch to sit on, as Hsu notes can promote a sense of connectedness in our communities. It is true that I don't know my front yard neighbors very well. They are actually down hill from me; whereas my back yard neighbors are on the same plane (an interesting study in how our geography affects things, I guess.) Surely, I have miles to go before I sleep on this one.
But the issue of hospitality versus isolation has been with us for a long, long time. I remember that Isaiah shouts a series of questions to the people of Israel, regarding God's desires...
"Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house... and not to hide yourself from your own kin?" (58:7)
In the end, I'm undecided. Do I have enough community? Do my neighbors want more from me? I don't know. Surely there must be a way to judge this. I'm counting on you for wisdom.
Apple in Double photo, by L.L. Barkat.
Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.
Amy Simpson's The Society Page
NEW LINKS TO THIS POST:
Al's Finding Community
Charity's Something to Share