Each Sunday, we’d drive away from our newish, tidy cul-de-sac in Lynnwood, to a destination church about twelve miles away, where most of the folks were much like us, seeking the same experience much like us – and ultimately using economic resources, much like us. After service, being hungry for both physical and relational sustenance, we’d often drive to another location for lunch – we loved spending time together, reaffirming our standing and security in this group.
And, admittedly, without this Sunday jaunt, I wouldn’t have the vital, life-giving relational connections I have today. Truly a conundrum.
Heck, we even imported folks into the neighborhood, who, again, were mostly like us, thought like us, ate like us, and looked like us, (generally speaking). Our house had the promise of good food, good drink and good laughter and conversation. And we were meeting the needs of lonely sojourners (like us) trying to figure out how to swim in a church and life after having had some form of crisis of faith. Maybe it kind of resembled: connecting for the sake of us.
But also each Sunday, as we drove away from the cul-de-sac with well-manicured lawns and landscaping, I was increasingly aware of the need of, or call of community to bear hope for the inhabitants and lives of each house. Here we were, physically located within a few feet to a few hundred feet of one another. Surely people were sick, experienced losses of all kinds, were busy, and were lonely. People were ultimately seeking an abundant life.
And here’s where my memory reminds me that interestingly, it was the minority ethnicities that were the most open to relationship – and one might consider that in those cultures, there was/is a decided healthy dependence upon community – it takes a village, right?
We could have had some amazing neighborhood potlucks and bridged some understandings of diverse cultures! Maybe, we, collectively, could have even influenced cross-cultural peace-making as we listened to one another’s humanity. I’m reminded of our Sri Lankan friends, our Polish friends, our Vietnamese friends, and African friend – those being people we had actually met.
But we drove miles away every Sunday. We used our discretionary time, energy and economic resources for us – to fulfill some felt and learned principle that we must meet together as the people of God in approved and worthy representations of Gospel gatherings – and ultimately, if people knew what was good for them, they’d make the out-of-neighborhood trek there too. And, it was good; it was very good. But hindsight tells me it maybe wasn’t the best good – if we value place-making and neighborhood-care as our place of being-ness and calling.
And yet, in the midst of all this, there is a memory that comes to mind during one of the darkest times of our sudden departure from this neighborhood (in the ongoing carnage following the economic crash that began in 2008), there was a moment that defined relationship and community – because there was one family with whom we shared some life: a Sri Lankan family, who looked different, ate different, believed different – and even defrosted their windshield different, much to the annoyance of other neighbors.
A marginalized culture for which we developed a sense of justice for, and stood, with our children, demonstrating on their behalf at a Seattle protest of the ongoing civil war in their home country – because we learned about human atrocities occurring among their people. And we were moved to join them in saying, ‘No more war!’.
This was a family who invited us to their children’s birthday parties where we were the only caucasians present, who came to our house for pie a’la mode on July 4th, for now and again visits and meals, and ultimately, a family who, upon learning of our sudden economic devastation, offered quite generously to help us with our mortgage, (which we didn’t accept, since it would only be temporary solution). This was a picture of relationship; and a display of compassion, i.e., ‘to suffer with’ – and it happened because we shared mutual stories and life and pain and hope.
Part of me grieves the (other) stories I never learned, the places of hope I never shared or realized for myself, and the relationships that never went beyond a quick wave. Oh God, you provided such an array of needful beauty and diversity, and I drove away.
So, I’m not beating myself up – at least not wholeheartedly. There were moments and times of neighborly goodness. But, my heart so wishes there had been more.
Note: And please know this isn’t a prescription for the universe, there’s no ‘you should’ implied here. It’s a reflection of my own experiences and understandings as of this moment in time. Though, I do wonder what kind of adjustments we can make to our lives that would invite more neighborhood connectivity that would lead to more care of others?