Tag: neighborhood

The power of what we have

“People are discovering that satisfying possibilities for their lives are in the neighborhood, not in the marketplace.”

That’s how John McKnight and Peter Block start their book, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. I wanted to know more after hearing John, Peter and Walter Brueggemann speak at the Abundant Communities conference in San Antonio, so I’ve just started the book and will share some highlights here. (All of the quotes on this post are from pages 1-2.)

In many nations, local people are having the “courage to discover their own way–to create a culture made by their own vision. … [I]t is a culture that starts the same way, with an awakening:

“First, we see the abundance that we have–individually, as neighbors, and in this place of ours.

“Second, we know that the power of what we have grows from creating new connections and relationships among and between what we have.

“Third, we know that these connections are no accident. They happen when we individually and collectively act to make the connections–they don’t just happen by themselves.”

Two words jumped out at me as I read this–“we have.” This book is not about something we do not have but need to acquire; it’s about what we have. That may not seem like a biggie, but so much of what we encounter today through advertising, self-help advice, and even church is about what we need but do not have. The simplicity of the notion that we have what we need seems powerfully freeing.

And while we may have what we need, I like the notion that this is something we’re going to have to work for. That squares with our experience of life.

The three steps mentioned above “awaken us to our abundance, not our scarcities. … [And they] can often be undermined by great corporate, governmental, professional, and academic institutions.”

For those of us who attended the San Antonio conference, these words sound so familiar. Walter Brueggemann made a superb biblical connection between the ideas of abundance and scarcity. (I blogged my notes from Walter’s remarks.)

And then John and Peter pick up the notion of citizenship about which I didn’t get good notes during the conference.

“It is our calling as citizens to ignore the voices that create dependency, for we are called to find our own way. …”

In a democracy, “we strive to be citizens–people with the vision and the power to create our own way, a culture of community capacity, connection, and care.”

I look forward to hearing more about these notions of citizenship.

“… [S]trong communities are vital, productive, and important. And above all they are necessary because of the inherent limits of all institutions.

“No matter how hard they try, our very best institutions cannot do many things that only we can do. And the things that only we can do as a family and a neighborhood are vital to a decent, good, satisfied life.”

I want to be part of something that is vital, productive, and important. I want to have a decent, good, satisfied life. I do experience all of this in many ways now but look forward to seeing how John and Peter open new possibilities for us.

What kind of neighbor am I?

From "Barnyard: The Original Party Animals"

My house sits on top of a hill, in the middle of a meadow, with plenty of sky above. When we moved into it 10 years ago, we could not see another single house when the trees had their leaves and only parts of one or two when the leaves fell to the ground. Now, we can see two houses well and parts of others, but they are all at least a half-mile away.

Cottonwood community is not your typical American neighborhood. It’s obviously rural, and everyone has a good bit of space–measured in acres, not square feet.

This community was, however, once quite typical for a small rural one. There was a school and a church, lots of houses scattered here and there, and plenty of kids to help with the work and to grab some time for play on occasion.

World War II and its aftermath pretty much emptied the place. First the boys went off to war. Then the girls went to Dallas to work. Then boys came home, married the girls and mostly stayed in the city to work while the girls raised the next generation.

My mom and dad fit that pattern, but they were surely not alone. The school had disappeared before the war because  the nearby Eustace schools could do the job more efficiently. Then, sometime in the 1960s, the church ceased to meet and the man who owned the adjacent land sort of gobbled up the vacant structure and returned it to a pastoral scene.

Now, people are slowly moving back in. Some of us are the offspring of the earlier residents, and some are new. We make a pretty nice community, but I suspect it’s rather different from the one before World War II. I don’t think there are as many kids, and those around spend most of there days miles away at school.

As for we adults, I’m not the only one who drives more than 60 miles one way to work. The money is still in Dallas. But we do like it in the country.

While we’re still called Cottonwood, I’m not sure how much of a community we are, at least at this point. One couple gathered us all together one evening a while back, and that was really nice. But the reason for the gathering was for us to keep a better watch over each other because some thievery had come to the area. It was, however, a start, a good start. But then the good man who pulled us together up and died an untimely death.

I just started reading The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods, by John McKnight and Peter Block. One thing I’ve picked up already is that if the community I live in is really going to be a community, I have to help make it happen. I have to become a neighbor. We will see.