I’m kind of on a story-telling kick. I hope that’s ok. I appreciate the chance to shout out some of the crazy-cool things God has shown me through His people.
This story begins one day when I moved into a new house. It was a lovely house; almost 100 years old and in the sweetest little village. It did have a fully functioning toilet at the top of the stairs. No walls, no sink. Just a sweet little farmhouse landing with an original bead board linen closet, a floor-to-ceiling window, a couple bedroom doors and a toilet. (My nephew was the first to use it, much to Carter’s chagrin.) So the house needed a little work… It had enough charm and character to make up for that!
While Collin and I were looking at buying The Toilet House (as it was apparently nicknamed by the neighbors), we noticed a backyard fence with a gate leading into the neighbor’s yard. We could “fix” that after the toilet had walls around it, no problem. Of course, on moving day a neighbor came right through that fence and welcomed us to the neighborhood. (Let me just say that I’ve moved a good number of times and never have I ever had a neighbor welcome us or even introduce themselves!) This neighbor, her husband and son were kin to the folks we had purchased the house from and the kids used to run back and forth between the yards. I wasn’t so sure I was comfortable with this set up having a 3 and a 1 year old myself, but thanked her for the welcome.
Well, let me tell you, I have learned more about community from this friendly neighbor than anywhere else! She came through that fence without reserve, but also without judgement or agenda. She walked into the house like she had known it her whole life (or at least a long time). And she had! She knew why the toilet was at the top of the stairs. She knew the neighbors’ frustration with the fence-sharing situation. And she knew why the family had to sell this house to us. She had a heart for this neighborhood and especially for this block; and so she made it her business to know us, too. And we became friends.
It didn’t matter that I was in the middle of muck and mire with a chronically (Celiac) sick baby or that I didn’t have a car of my own to get out during the day. She didn’t mind having all of our playdates at my house so I could regulate baby naptimes and she didn’t mind packing a (gluten) lunch for her kid and then de-contaminating my kitchen afterwards so we could hang out longer. She never judged me for my crazy Jesus-loving commentary or church-going even though she had already made up her mind on the matter. And she openly “watched over” our house at all times and commented on our comings and goings without shame. (I just love her utter honesty!!)
When I think of my new neighbor popping over or calling as soon as we walked into the driveway, I realize the crazy grace and acceptance we had for each other. She tried over and over to quit smoking and I tried over and over to plant a productive garden; but we did it together. We talked about potty-training and husbands and church and budgets while we walked the streets of the village to go to the library, grocery store, and park. We taught our boys to ride their bikes across the street in the open parking lot. We drank a lot of coffee with even more creamer. It was the simple life, in a sense.
Unfortunately, now I realize how complex that kind of community really is. I have not yet been able to recreate that way of doing life together since we moved away from that neighborhood. During our time in the Toilet House, I learned what it meant to BE WITH someone. To show up and sit. To traverse the highs and lows without wavering in friendship. My neighbor came over and she was beside me AND for me! (and vice versa!)
What if we all sought to create that kind of community? One where we came along side each other and united in spirit for a life season? What if we all embraced COME-UNITY?