Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hope is alive!

I wanted to drop off a snapshot of a book I've been reading that is a look at the "average day" of a community that really lays out a good definition of a community. It's not "intentional community" for that would be an oxymoron for the organic community that has been birthed and lived out amongst this group of people. This is about a handful of people, some married some single. who live in one of the poorest sections of Philadelphia, so I'll let Shane Claiborne take it away.

"We hang out with kids and help them with homework in our living room, and jump in open fire hydrants on hot summer days. We share food with folks who need it, and eat the beans and rice our neighbor Ms. Sunshine makes for us. Folks drop in all day to say hi, have a safe place to cry, or get some water or a blanket. Sometimes we turn people away, or play rock paper, scissors to see who answers the door on tired days. We run a community store out of our house. We call it the Gathering, and neighbors can come in and fill a grocery bag with clothes for a dollar or find a couch, a bed, or a refrigerator. Sometimes people donate beautiful things for us to share with our neighbors; other times they donate their used toothbrushes. We reclaim abandoned lots and make gardens amid the concrete wreckage around us. We plant flowers inside old TV screens and computer monitors on our roof. We see our friends waste away from drug addiction, and on a good day, someone is set free. We see police scare people, and on a good day, we find an officer who will play wiffle ball with his billy club. We rehab abandoned houses. And we mourn the two people who died in this property (where I am now writing). We try to make ugly things beautiful and to make murals. Instead of violence, we learn imagination and sharing. We share life with our neighbors and try to take care of each other. We hang out on streets. We get fined for distributing food. We go to jail for sleeping under the stars. We win in court. We have friends in prison and on death row. We stand in the way of state-sanctioned execution and of the prison industrial complex. We have always called ourselves a tax-exempt 501c3 antiprofit organization. We wrestle to free ourselves from macrocharity and distant acts of charity that serve to legitimize apathetic lifestyles of good intentions but rob us of the gift of community. We visit rich people and have them visit us. We preach, prophesy, and dream together about how to awaken the church from her violent slumber. Sometimes we to change the world; other times we speak to keep the world from changing us. We are about ending poverty, not simply managing it. We give people fish. We teach them to fish. We tear down the walls that have been built up around the fish pond. And we figure out who polluted it. We fight terrorism - the terrorism within each of us, the terrorism of corporate greed, of American consumerism, of war. We are not pacifist hippies but passionate lovers who abhor passivity and violence. We spend our lives actively resisting everything that destroys life, whether that be terrorism or the war on terrorism. We try to make the world safe, knowing that the world will never be safe as long as millions live in poverty so the few can live as they wish. We believe in another way of life - the kingdom of God - which stands in opposition to the principalities, powers, and rulers of this dark world (Eph. 6:12). So that's an average day.

Now some of us are married, and some have chosen singleness, and some have kids. We recognize each of these choices as a gift. We have created some healthy structures and rhythms for our communal life, such as our Sabbath and our modified common pool of money, to which we each contribute $150 for living expenses each month. We have described the layers of our common life as an onion, at the core of which are the partners who covenant to love and cherish each other, and each of us shares healthy responsibilities and expectations. We have created a statement of our faith so folks know we are not a cult. And so folks will know we are not just believers, we have created a statement of our practices, which range from simplicity and nonviolence to beauty and play. Our programs revolve around the needs and gifts in our community and are always changing. They never define us, for we set out not to start programs but simply to be good neighbors. Neighbors have come and gone over the past decade. So sometimes we are feeding fifty folks out of our kitchen, helping a dozen kids with homework, fixing up abandoned houses, or planting urban gardens. In the summers, we run collaborative arts camps with the Yes! And... theatre company, mixing suburban and urban kids and carving out space for imagination and dreams, The kids create dance, music, art, characters, a set, and build a show together. We now have so many partner communities and organizations that it really feels like a movement much bigger than the Simple Way. And we are just one little cell within the Body, very full of life but only a small part of the whole. Cells are born and cells die, but the Body lives forever."

Wow huh? That is such a small piece of Shane's journey, but it has been such a joy to echo his heart in so many of his travels and I love how things have shaped themselves out of the people and culture in such an organic and healthy way. I thought this might inspire you and challenge you all at once, it has me. I'll link to the book on the left and just say, let the revolution continue or even start in our communities today!

Wallace D.

1 comment:

carahoeks said...

Thanks for your comment Wallace! I am very happy too! Justin is an amazing man- I can't thank God enough for him.

I am so glad you shared this post-- you're righ tit's amazing and I got goosebumps from reading it.