When it comes to community, our middle class millennial age has given us unprecedented privilege in which we are unaware: our finances allow us to hire a babysitter, drive far distances, buy dinner, and eat with a friend a town away. Our technology allows us to meet someone on vacation, and then keep up with her through social media indefinitely.
For us, “community” means pages on Facebook, a church that pools people from four surrounding towns, and planning dinner with the old roommates. And serving our community means scheduling a time slot on a certain day, driving distances up to 30 minutes away, and arriving in a part of town we never before stepped foot in. And I’m not necessarily saying that we shouldn’t engage in this type of community, but . . .
. . . This got me thinking:
Isn’t it absurd that we “schedule” time to serve, and only through an event or organization, when there are ever present needs all around us within walking distance?
Isn’t it absurd that we drive a town away to serve dinner when the family next door is forfeiting theirs because finances are tight?
Isn’t it absurd that we go to “serve” those in other communities we consider “unfortunate,” tell them “God Bless” and “it’s going to be okay,” and then travel back home to our fireplace and Netflix never to invest in them again, while they sleep on the floor and listen to the echo of gun shots and police sirens nightly?
Isn’t it absurd that a single mother cries on the phone to her mom back home because she’s desperately tired and has no one nearby to give her even an hour break, while the lady next door has spent the entire day watching Netflix?
What if we shifted our paradigm of community? What if we less viewed community and serving as a definable place and time, and instead felt it as an ever-present reality physically surrounding us that we can choose to engage in or shut out? What if we learned that the terms “community” and “serving” are inseparable concepts?
EVERYONE belongs to a community, and yet we are increasingly surrounded by people who feel so alone.
See, this is where we’ve failed. We’ve failed to make community with those next door. We’ve failed to engage people in our daily lives and routine. We’ve paid the utmost attention to someone’s Instagram that we’ve never met, while ignoring the man who sits alone every night on his porch with tears in his eyes.
If we all pursued our neighbors, no one would fall under the radar. If we served those around us, no one would go without assistance and we’d better our world starting with where we live.
Community is within walking distance. Relationships are an eye-shot away. Service is the street on which you live, the places you frequent, and the building in which you work.
Don’t go looking for community — build community where you are.