The realization hit me like a brick: I have become a freeloader where my local community is concerned.
When we move into our house a couple years ago, we were lovingly welcomed by some of the people on our street. They invited us over, helped me with gardening, and showered us with affection. When my second child was born, they cuddled him to give me a break as I gratefully sipped the coffee they had made for me. I am truly grateful for the gift of our neighbors. Even the people who work full-time, who are not often around, are friendly and will wave and make small talk on occasion.
We all want to experience a good community, don’t we? We look for the neighborhoods, schools, and churches that are known for having “good community.” We may even uproot our lives and move to a new area so that we can be surrounded by a supportive environment. When we discover this treasure, we sigh contentedly and soak up the fruits of the relationships that come our way.
But we can fall into a trap.
One day, I thought about how wonderful our elderly neighbors are. I thought about the many conversations I’ve had with them over cups of coffee. I thought about the gardening advice they’ve given me. I thought about their incredible wisdom — insights that have greatly helped me as I navigate motherhood. As all of these thoughts collided in my mind, I realized something: These wonderful people have been giving me many things, but I really haven’t been giving much in return.
“Well, I show up with my kids, and that brings them a lot of joy,” I said to myself. “That’s something, right?” Yet, the more I mulled it over, the more I realized that just “showing up” wasn’t enough. I had fallen into the trap of simply receiving over and over again, without any thought as to how I could proactively give.
I can’t just sit and passively absorb the gifts of living in a supportive area. I need to “give the gift of community” to other people. Yes, having a thriving community depends on multiple people working together. It’s not something that I can just create by myself. However, I can still take the initiative and find ways to give. “Good community” is easy to take for granted, but it’s a gift that we should all be working to nourish.
We all go through seasons of life where “just showing up” is all we can do. Maybe you’re a parent whose spouse is deployed, and your life is in survival mode. Maybe you’re going through an illness and need to focus on taking things easy. Maybe you’re already juggling a million and one responsibilities, and doing anything more is overwhelming to think about. Maybe right now, all you can do is “just show up.”
But maybe, even if we’re not in a place where we can give, we can at least think about what we’ll do when we’ve moved out of this temporary state. Can we knock on the door of that one house we pass by and introduce ourselves? Spontaneously invite a neighbor over for lunch? Offer to watch a neighbor’s kids for an hour while he or she runs errands?
Going beyond the idea of “building” community, let’s think about giving community. When we give of ourselves in even the smallest ways, God will work wonders.
Copyright 2019 AnneMarie Miller