Non-Self-Sufficiency and Building Beloved Community

I love my neighborhood.  I have some of the best neighbors in the world.  A few days ago I had the opportunity to have great conversations with three of them before 9am!  All were meaningful interactions:  One was a phone call, one was an exchange of text messages, and one was the old-fashioned, face-to-face, type of meeting.

I wish I could say all of these expressions of Beloved Community were because I’m such a conscientious caring person who intentionally reaches out to my neighbors.  Nope!  It’s because I’m a needy person looking for a car to borrow.

Now, to be clear, all of these neighbors had offered their car if we ever needed it.  Secondly I do talk to them frequently and they know my friendship IS sincere.  BUT the truth is had I not needed a car that day we would not have talked that morning.

This got me thinking, does self-sufficiency short-circuit community building?  I found a car to drive, I made plans for breakfast with another neighbor, and I heard about family vacation plans another friend has in the works.   But had I not needed a car, I would have left my house and gone about my business without connecting with these amazing people that live around me.

Janeen, Tyler,  Morgan and I made a conscious decision to do without an additional car.  We can bike and bus more, and many friend have offered a car to borrow whenever their ride is available.  Not having something at your personal disposal forces us into conversation and interaction.  We must plan, discuss, call and sometimes slow down.

To be inter-dependent requires communication, and sometimes our “needs’ force us to be more considerate, and even kinder.  But it is not easy.  We have to admit out need and our dependancy.  This is embarrassing and soooo “un-American”

Dependancy, need, and humility… these seem to be values of a different kind of community.

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3 thoughts on “Non-Self-Sufficiency and Building Beloved Community”

  1. Marque,

    Thanks for this. When Bob received his diagnosis, we learned pretty early on that self sufficiency was not an option. There was too much need in our lives and not enough…of anything. So not only were we coping with devastating news of Bob’s diagnosis and the future unknown, we were left having to learn to lean on others to get us through. The good thing was that we found we had community and we learned we were not alone through a very difficult time in our lives.

  2. Interestingly, if we “trek back” to “simpler” times when persons had less, stayed close, and shared more–they were actually much more “self-sufficient.”

    Our “independence” really amounts to a huge dependency on “people at a distance.” How many people does it take to deliver a carton of milk onto my breakfast table? It now takes an intricate network of multinational agribusiness, transportation, marketing, manufacturing, energy, petrochemical, packaging, and governmental organizations. Can’t go next door and get a quart that just came from Bessie.

    And isn’t this one of the urban challenges? Being extremely dependent–but invisibly so???

    This week I have been attempting to be conscious and grateful of the myriad of people (visible and invisible) who make my life possible–to see the city as giving the life that it does.

    Maybe, allowing one’s needs to be met–with gratitude–is different from a crippling sense of helplessness in which we deny our own power and responsibility.

    Please blog more about this. I think the issue is multi-layered and goes in lots of directions.

    Like Amy’s comment above–it was also a very interesting journey for us as Claudelle’s illness caused our “service to others” to stop–and brought many to serve us. And I watched as her “need” became a gift to others individually and as a community.

    One day, as she struggled with some of the care she was receiving (or not receiving), she said, “I can’t do anything. I just sit here. People come and bring whatever is going on in them; and I am like a mirror.”

    Her comment was almost precisely what I recall Henri Nouwen writing about his experience in leaving his post at Harvard and going to a L’Arche community for mentally disabled persons–and the bond he developed with one of the residents: ie how the “needy person” is gift to the community and how they become a mirror.

    I appreciate your comments highlighting the benefit of some lifestyle choices that allow the meeting of needs (shared community) can become more ‘personal’ in urban life. This is part of why I really affirm John Perkins’ ‘relocation’ emphasis–or a parish model of ministry–or a ministry of presence. Our lives have location–we are in a place.

    Cars have basically dislocated ourselves. We become everywhere and nowhere. Our ‘community’ becomes all the invisible networks that provide us our “stuff” to equip our little castles where we can feel safe and independent.

    Until the lights go out.

  3. I agree with Phil! More on this Marque! What other ways can we share our blessings with each other by giving up unnecessary things?

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