One of the real family tragedies of our culture today is the loss of community. Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock, among other futurists, had predicted that as our world became more connected electronically we would become more isolated; burrowing was a term often used. Content with television, the internet and our electronic entertainment combined with a fear of the world ‘out there’ families would become increasingly isolated from each other..
With the loss of community comes a loss of connectedness that was commonplace only a generation or two ago.
I was reminded of this dynamic recently when we noticed that a family’s home in our neighborhood had a large white sticker on the front picture window.
We also noticed that a professional company was mowing the grass; they had always done it themselves.
A carpet cleaning company pulled up to the house one day and a roofing company delivered shingles a few days later. The lights are out at night. Nobody home.
It happens every day in neighborhoods all over southeastern Michigan as a microcosm of a national tragedy. For any number of reasons from unemployment to divorce or debilitating illnesses, families find themselves in houses that they can no longer afford to maintain.
Families uprooted, displaced, transitioning, struggling, suffering. How many times have we seen the sudden transitions in our own neighborhoods over the last several years without warning. One day a family is there; the next day they are gone. They just packed up and left for who-knows-where.
These things don’t happen overnight. Usually they are preceded by months of discussions with lawyers, bank representatives, real estate agents, families and friends. Done quietly in late night discussions, morning coffee and afternoon consultations.
Then, with all options exhausted, the deadline finally arrives and they’re gone. The tragedy is that, as neighbors, no one knows what happened.
One of the really encouraging trends in churches today is the emphasis upon small groups and people becoming salt and light in their own neighborhoods. One innovative approach worth noting was identified by Randy Frazee, the pulpit minister of the Oak Hill Church in San Antonio, Texas. In his book Making Room for Life, he advocates a simpler, more organic type of family lifestyle that seeks to help people connect with the people who live next door, down the street in the neighborhood.
The reality is that to connect with each other requires determined effort and a conscious decision to leaven our immediate communities with neighborly care and concern. In churches we call this a moving away from attracting people to our church buildings and focusing more upon helping our people think more like missionaries to their neighbors and fellow workers; i.e., being missional.
The effect of this realignment in lifestyle is that we know when families are struggling and, as good neighbors, we can rally other neighbors to care for one another, to celebrate the victories together and to mourn losses together.
Key word: together.