Today at the gym, a lady who usually takes the elliptical machine next to mine found a (hopefully unused) kleenex in one of the cubbie holes of the elliptical. She promptly took it out, and threw it on the floor, presumably for the employees of the gym to take care of later. On Monday, on our weekly trip to Publix with Cricket, Liz and I noticed a woman who left her shopping cart in the parking space rather than walk the entire 10 feet to put it away in the shopping cart stall.
We in the Winters family live at a four-way stop in Tallahassee that people blow through all of the time without stopping. This same four way stop causes a bunch of cars to break down because it is on a really big hill.
What do all of these things have to do with one another? Well, to some degree, they are all examples of house living rather than village living. House living is the norm for American culture. In the house living paradigm, we are most concerned about our domiciles, our living space. In its microcosm form, this led the lady at the elliptical to toss the kleenex on the ground rather than in the trashcan. What mattered to her was to get the clutter out of her machine, but clutter for the employees and other gym members didn’t matter so much. This led the lady with the shopping cart to leave it rather than put it away, causing a chore for the Publix worker at the least, and a likely ding in the paint job of some other car. It’s the same thing that causes people to blow through our stop sign.
It all seems relatively harmless, because it is harmless to us. And for the most part, it usually is harmless in the acute forms of those things. However, the overall effect isn’t harmless. Studies into the psychological and sociological effects of suburbs that were built as a part of white flight have shown that the degree to which we engage in “house living” has negatively impacted us. We have become more lonely, less resilient, and have actually added to the crime statistics — all by choosing to live “fortressed” off into our homes.
And I am not immune. I didn’t pick up the kleenex. I didn’t put away the cart that the lady left. I do stop at my stop sign, and I have helped out a few people whose cars have broken down — but I have also ignored people whose cars have broken down. And if you’re saying “well it wasn’t your job to do those things,” you’re probably showing to some degree how much you’re not living in the village.
This is an area of sanctification for me (sanctification: some growth caused by the Holy Spirit.) I honestly believe that God wants me to move toward living with a village mentality and less of a house mentality. Liz and I are doing this, slowly dipping our toes into the countercultural waters of village living by taking an evening walk and meeting our neighbors, by being a part of our neighborhood association, by my many daily five minute walks on campus just to see if I can see someone I know or might get to know, and by our commitment to try treating people with respect and dignity when we meet them as our restaurant servers or cashiers or whatever. We’re certainly not perfect at it, but we’re trying. We believe that the Holy Spirit caused us to live where we do and be where we are for a reason, and we’re just trying to see what that reason might be.
I wonder about our church building, University Lutheran, and how we might be a better part of our village – not just me, but you too. Our house of worship is losing out on a great amount of impact if we are simply are living in our house and not our village. I think we see some village living with our LWML group collecting items for our neighbor, the Women’s Pregnancy Center, and with the beautification of our front space. I think I see some more that we could be for our neighbors. The Holy Spirit opens doors, and especially those doors that allow us to practice what our Lord commanded, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
After all, Jesus didn’t just sit up in heaven. He came to us and loved us in our village, and even invited us to His.