Saturday, October 11, 2014

31.10-11 :: On Building Community

Today, like yesterday, I have spent most of the day hauling camera gear, along with a light on a giant stand across smooth concrete floors. Taking pictures of pretty flowers and vases in every conceivable nook and cranny of a sprawling showroom. Most certainly, we walked a mile (just ask Maddie). So when I got home, I thought that maybe I could/should just skip the day's walk. After all, it was already dinner time. And after dinner, things only get more hectic as we inch towards bedtime through the landscape of grouchy and tired and I-dont-want-to-go-to-bed.
But I still vaguely remember the lesson I learned yesterday about intentionality. So I begrudgingly decide to walk our friend Ava home instead of driving her. Luckily, Jayci opts to stay home and help daddy with dinner (pioneer woman!), so Caden climbs next to Ava in the stroller and we head down the street.

The corner bustles around the green-walled corner store. The bell over the door rings constant trills, and the man waiting outside tips his hat to us before asking if he can hold a dollar for some trap chicken.

I never have cash anymore I tell him, which is entirely true. I'm walking unfettered tonight: just the the stroller, the kiddos, and me. The light blinks yellow/orange, then red, we cross and continue down the street, the strong smell of greasy fried chicken fading as we pull away from the store. I step over a hair net with weave tangled through it, and take the stroller through the grass to bypass a mattress and a pile of tires.

As the sun sinks ever-lower, the sidewalks turns glittery magic with shards of glass catching rays of sunshine and flinging them back to the sky. I stop and talk to Mikey, who we met at our Thanksgiving feast. She sits on the covered bench painted with flowers Adam built by the Marta stop, and when I ask where she's headed she tells me just resting my feet for a minute Becca.  We hug and chat about the perfect fall weather, and she peers in the stroller to say hi to Caden: he refuses to respond, as per usual. I shake my head and we laugh at his ridiculous shyness.

We turn off the main street, and I am greeted by a gaggle of children who want to know when we can go back to Camp Grace. I walk with one hand pushing the stroller, while the other grips one of the twin's hands, though I still have trouble telling them apart so I just call her punkin. The smaller kids try and climb in next to Caden and I shoo them out, telling them they can only climb in if they are four-years-old-or-younger. Immediately they all insist they are, in fact, four years old.
I have a sneaking suspicion, growing as I tread even now over cracked sidewalks, that the way community builds and Kingdom comes is just like this: one step at a time. One foot in front of the other, even when we are tired and empty. Because in our emptiness we walk smack-dab into His fullness.

Swerving around empty Colt 45 cans, the light catches weeds and graffiti just right and they shimmer like mirages, an oasis of art in a vast barren landscape. I chat, however briefly, with everyone who crosses our path. Cars honk as they buzz past on the busy street, and I wave a hand or smile broad in response.

Something about walking through here feels subversive, directly opposing the forces that declare these streets unsafe. We walk past Mikey again; I stop, and we sit side-by-side, both of us just resting our feet for a minute. 

Walking through the neighborhood we call home, I recognize the Kingdom that is both here and not-yet. I find the beautiful and the broken, reminded how impossible it grows to separate the two. Community builds slow and steady, gentle and strong, one step after another on a sidewalk that ends abruptly in a patch of grass. We cross the street and point ourselves back towards home, reminded anew of the ways God has called us to this place, to our neighbors, to each other.

Walking is about being outside, in public space, and public space is also being abandoned and eroded in cities, eclipsed by technologies and services that don't require leaving home, and shadowed by fear in many places (and strange places are always more frightening than known ones, so the less one wanders the city the more alarming it seems, while the fewer the wanderers the more lonely and dangerous it really becomes). - from Wanderlust


  1. This calms me in the best, weirdest way. Your words. So pure. And beauty full.

    (I love it that I know about the trap chicken and that I have smelled it with my own sniffer.)

  2. This is good. And I love the quote at the end. We just explored a park on the south side of our city and so many of these things wandered through my head. This so encourages me to walk in my neighborhood more--we love our neighborhood and so desire to see it grow as a community. I love how you see beauty in the brokenness.


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