Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thoughts on neighborhood

My friend Austin was telling me about his neighborhood in Atlanta.  Neighborhood as in his physical street.  He and his roommates are some of the younger people on the block, with many more established families in established homes surrounding them.  Austin and his roommates went to a dinner party with their neighbors last weekend.  Everyone brought a dish.  I asked him how he got to know his neighbors and be invited to this dinner party, and he told me a story about how he went to a neighborhood fundraiser to get new street lights on their street.  I asked him what his neighbors are like, and he described them as authentic.  Not afraid to share about their past and where they've been and what they've come from.

I'd like to live on Austin's street.

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I'm at the Brookhaven Starbucks right now.  As I waited in line for my Grande coffee, I observed a man and a woman run into each other.  The woman asked about the man's new baby and how his wife was doing.  The man invited the woman over to their other neighbors' house to watch football this afternoon.  She said they would come by at halftime to visit and meet the baby.  

And I thought, when's the last time I ran into a friend at Starbucks? When's the last time someone invited me over for an impromptu, casual Sunday afternoon to watch football and it was actually an option because I could walk down to their house and just "pop over?"  I rarely pop these days.  I plan.

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Francis Chan spoke at Catalyst this week.  He recently left his church and moved to San Francisco.  He's starting a ministry right now designed to connect with people in apartment buildings in San Fran.  The premise is simple: someone "adopts" a building.  They go door to door and just introduce themselves.  They don't invite to anything or sell anything or push anything. They do take food and gifts and stuff and meet needs, though.  And once there's a relationship that's built on giving, not taking, they ask how they can pray for the neighbor.  (Francis joked that if they say they don't believe in God, they'd say, "Great! Give me something big!")  And through this intentional neighboring, they'll get to know people in a building, and meet their needs, and love them.

I sat there and listened to Francis and got FIRED UP.  I couldn't stop talking about it.  I loved the idea.  "That's the definition of community!" I raved!  I'd love to be a part of that!

But then I thought, why don't you, Jamie? You have a street.  You have roommates and a house and a block.  You have a neighborhood and a coffee shop and a relationship with the living God of the universe.

And I realized: I'm spending all this time in my life talking about community, maybe even dreaming about a community someday "when"... when I own a house. When I'm married. When I have kids. When I move to a neighborhood where community already exists.  When I magically live down the street from my best friends. When I become a part of a ministry where someone else is creating a structured community. When it's easy.

And I thought, maybe God has put this on my heart for me to be that person.  Maybe he has burned a deep passion for community and neighborhood because he wants me to create it.  Not "when."  Now.

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Atlanta has always frustrated me because it's so spread out, so sprawling, so disconnected. But now, swirling around in my head is the thought that if I'm going to spend so much time complaining about how spread out and sprawling and disconnected it is, maybe I should invest in making it smaller and more intimate and more connected.

Maybe the Lord wants to take this city and make it a neighborhood, and he's just looking for the neighbors.

"The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Galatians 5:14

6 comments:

  1. Jamie...GREAT epiphany. :) So often we think when we "achieve" the next level (marriage, kids, etc.) that then we will be ready to make our difference in the world. Meanwhile we are watching so many opportunities pass us by...only to realize that each "next level" comes with time delays of its own. :) Go make a difference in your neighborhood!! You've inspired me to do it as well. :)

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  2. awesome blog jamie. you've inspired me to get out of my introvert shell and meet some neighbors. :)

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  3. I love this - and just so you know, it totally works :-) Adam and I started walking around our neighborhood just a few weeks ago, and we currently have 12 high school boys watching the Falcons game with Adam :-)

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  4. love this, Jamie! I just moved to a new city, too, and I've been having many of these same thoughts. Thanks for inspiring me to stop waiting and start DOING!

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  5. So true. I always think the same thing about the Atlanta area. I also thought the same thing about 'when I get married' and 'when I have a house', but truthfully for me, those things did not magically make community. at. all. I just joined the activities planning committee in our neighborhood (if you can call it that) to try and get more involved. It's hard, but no one will do it for me and I have to remember that. Thanks for this honest reminder that there is no 'right' time for community to begin!

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  6. I love this. Beautifully written.

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