Posts Tagged ‘neighbors’

I live in an apartment community. They call it a community, but we do not know our neighbors. I take responsibility for not introducing myself beyond saying hello in the parking lot. I am not a party giver, but if I were I would plan a block party.

The squirrels own this community. They hang out at the dumpsters. They are champion dumpster divers. Last fall a partially eaten apple dropped  nearly on my head as I walked underneath a tree, followed by the skritching of squirrels high-tailing it away from me.  A gang of rowdy teenage squirrels playing pranks on their neighbors — they need jobs.

I’ve been tempted to try dumpster diving myself. Actually, one day I did help a neighbor carry home a table we found in a dumpster. It’s shameful, even obscene, the things and the sheer quantity of stuff we throw away in our country. We keep buying more and throwing away more. I want to rescue some of that stuff and not support the engine that says increasing consumption is necessary for economic health.

The contents of dumpsters are a resource, or could be. Some people use this resource all the time. My friend, Luke, is an experienced diver. If he were here, I might ask him to teach me.

In a true community, resources would be shared instead of thrown away.

Relationships are the most fundamental resources. How can we share ourselves and treat relationships as valuable instead of disposable? Even in an apartment complex where at least part of the residents, maybe a majority, are transient? When the lease is up, they move. I probably will too.

The rising cost of housing militates against a stable community.

We have to work even harder to create and grow one.



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Thoughts on the Incarnation and social media:

Christmas is all about the Incarnation. God took on the form of a human to come live among us in this messed up world and ultimately give his life for it. As The Message version of the Bible puts it in John 1: 14, “The Word took on flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”

Jesus had a physical body. He skinned his knuckles in the woodshop, got diarrhea and colds, and guzzled water on hot days. He ate meals with his friends. He laughed at their jokes and cried with their sorrows. He worked alongside them. He looked them in the eyes and listened with his heart. He clapped them on the back.

Because God himself did it, we know that being physically with other people matters.

I recently heard a speech titled “Who Is Your Neighbor?” by David L. Myers, director of faith-based initiatives for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He made a comment that stopped me cold: “It’s easier to ignore your neighbors because you’re too busy staying connected.” Yikes. He suggested disconnecting part of the time and intentionally seeking out ways to get to know people, in person.

Social media networks are marvelous. They help us connect verbally with each other. In fact, we become addicted to these virtual connections. Yet in our virtual community, we can and usually do maintain a layer of insulation from each other. Do we realize how many people out there, some we know and some we don’t, desperately need another human to care enough to look at them, to listen to some piece of their story, to sit across a table and share a meal, to embrace, to miss them if they aren’t there? Are we willing to sacrifice any part of ourselves for our brothers and sisters?

Tonight my son Paul posted this: “Ah, Facebook. Where pretty girls can make hundreds of imaginary friends. Where people can post their feelings when no one else will listen. Where ex-es can meet and chat before ‘one last’ hookup … Where even your social network is playing reruns. But oh well, it’s not like anything else is on. Right?”

How profound and sad–and true, I fear.

There are times I stay up way too late, checking and rechecking my Facebook, Twitter, and email accounts for some little comment, anything,  from someone I care about, some little thing to make me feel connected. Then I realize how bankrupt that is. It’s not all that different from having TV on all the time just to make noise “for company” when no one else is around.

What Paul is saying, and what David Myers was saying, and part of what Jesus continues to say in his Incarnation, is that we need physical presence of and with each other, and we impoverish ourselves and others if we are so occupied with staying connected (read: social media) that we don’t have any time to get to know our neighbors.

90 % of all communication is nonverbal. That means that Facebook — or even this blog — only gives you 10% at best of what I want to convey. There’s no body language, no facial expressions, no tone of voice. No presence. Emoticons just don’t cut it.

I’m gong to keep up with my media accounts — including this blog — but will you join me in making time to get to know our neighbors, the ones we actually share physical space with, whether in the grocery store, at work, or across the street? And let’s ask God to help us do it as best we can the same way Jesus would, with kindness and compassion and truth. It’ll most likely be messy. But Jesus got pretty messy when he stepped into our neighborhood.

This Christmas and beyond, let’s give — and receive — presence.

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