Since I have worked in an international mission organization the past 15 years I have always had one grievance, well a few, but one main one, the lack of establishing ourselves in a community. I moved to Madison nearly 9 years ago and straight away felt that it was a perfect fit for me. The city is very community oriented. If you live downtown you can walk almost anywhere and where Matt and I live you can walk or ride a bike to retrieve any amenity you need. There is always free stuff to do, things to do with your kids, museums, pubs and various hang out spots as well as community events for people to gather under a specific purpose or interest.
Recently, maybe the past three years, I have been bemoaning the fact that I don’t see people I know when I go to the store or have long and annoying conversations with my neighbor whom I bumped into while another customer waits, sighing and rolling their eyes, behind me in line. There is a sense of community and belonging you get when you drive down the street and honk at your mate, Bubba, who is playing Frisbee in the park while on your way to the laundry mat. “Hey, there’s Bubba.” Honk! “Dude, what’s up?”
I have friends who moved away from my hometown in Tacoma to the bustle of the ‘cool city’, Seattle, only to find that their lonliness was magnified to highs that would often bring the onset of severe depression because they lived in a rad city but knew not a soul. Suddenly the weekends don’t mean quite so much when you have zero friends.
We live in this great neighborhood where we come out once a year for a group organized block party, people wave when you are out mowing your lawn and often you see families walking past your house through the warm season. I even took a job in town last year just to put more roots into the city that I call home. It’s a wonderful endeavor to maintain a global perspective but if you still haven’t had one of your neighbors over for a meal then you clearly don’t understand what it means to love your NEIGHBOR!
Today I was at the store. Let me just say if you are from Madison you know that Woodman’s is hell on earth. We all winge about being in it’s clutches but still we shop there. Never go there on a Sunday, like I did today, say…after church time. It’s madness. Worse than usual. You go down any aisle and there’s ALWAYS people!!! You turn the corner with your cart and you ALWAYS run into someone. It’s like interstate 405 in LA. It’s a necessary evil. Merging is a drag and someone always cuts you off. Then if you are in anyone’s path they roll their eyes at you. We’re all in this mess together at Woodman’s yet no one is ever patient or nice! I guess it’s because we all just want to get out of there ASAP. Maybe that’s just me.
So I was braving the store today and just as I passed the cracker isle (yep, an entire isle devoted to crackers and cookies) I saw a neighbor. She stopped me and said hello and we chatted for a bit. Then a few minutes later I saw another neighbor and we stopped to laugh about how Woodman’s sucks and we parted ways. When I say ‘neighbor’ I actually mean people who live on my street, not the ubiquitous neighbor that Jesus was referring to. Then as I was checking out my items someone said , “Tracie!” I looked over and it was someone I use to work with when I worked at the sweat…I mean sewing shop. I hugged him and we chatted for a bit.
As I was leaving the dark halls of the horror that is Woodman’s I had a great feeling inside. It certainly wasn’t from finding a great deal on organic apples in the produce section. I felt like I lived in a town where I know people outside of my immediate world of believers. I’ve always loved hanging out with people who won’t enter a church. I love the conversations and the lives we end up sharing. Today I am super thankful that I have placed roots in a community where I am beginning to know more people who are becoming friends. I’m not in a bubble where the unbeliever is an outcast or unattractive to me. It’s like going to Cheers, that stupid show from the 80’s set in a bar and the theme song is about everyone knowing your name. You want to be somewhere that feels like home because you’ve invested in the relationships. That can happen on a global scale but likely it will not. Not when you only spend 2 months somewhere, and even then you’re usually traveling the entire time and spending a day here and a day there meeting scads of people. This doesn’t even happen if you work with people all the time. It can but it doesn’t always. People are too busy.
Funny how the entire kingdom of God is centered around relationship yet the church has become so friggin’ busy that we don’t even have time for relationships anymore. Well, today I had my thankful moment realizing that even though I’m not having these people sign my yearbook or give me matching bracelets with half a heart that says “Best” while the other half says “Friends”, I’m here and I’m planting deeper roots than I have planted in a long time. It feels damn good to know people outside of my world and to join the journey of loving my neighbor whom I actually know.
What are you thankful for?
Neighborhood block party (three leg race)